Venezuela to nationalize Spanish-owned bank

Por Venezuela Real - 31 de Julio, 2008, 22:16, Categoría: Prensa Internacional

Associated Press
Miami Herald
July 31, 2008

President Hugo Chávez said Thursday he intends to nationalize the Bank of Venezuela, which is owned by the Santander banking group of Spain.

''We are going to take back the Bank of Venezuela to put it at the service of the Venezuelans,'' Chávez said in a televised address.

Chávez said he made the decision to nationalize after learning that Santander had begun to make contacts with a local bank to sell the institution. He said the local bank asked for authorization from the government, but that he, ''as the head of state,'' nixed the sale.

''Now sell it to the government,'' Chávez said.

A Bank of Venezuela spokesperson -- speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue -- told The Associated Press that the bank heard of the nationalization on television and has no other information.

Santander purchased the Bank of Venezuela in 1996. The financial institution is the country's third-largest bank.

Chávez had threatened to nationalize Venezuelan subsidiaries of Spanish banks after Spain's King Juan Carlos told him to ''shut up'' at a summit last November. But just last week he wrapped up a European tour with a hug-and-kiss visit to Spain, where he was greeted warmly by the king at his summer residence on the island of Mallorca.

Chávez later flew to Madrid for talks with Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The two leaders said their relationship was renewed and any past tension was behind them.

Under Chávez's governance, Venezuela also has nationalized its largest telephone, electricity, steel and cement companies and has assumed majority control over four major oil projects.

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