Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced today that his government would be expropriating the plants operated in his country by Ohio-based Owens-Illinois, a world leader in glass bottle manufacturing. It’s not the first nor certainly the last time that Chavez has nationalized foreign assets as a means of sustaining his leftist populist agenda.
Chavez was somewhat vague as to the reason for the expropriation, saying that Owens-Illinois, which has operated in Venezuela for over fifty years, accusing it of environmental damage and exploiting its workers, but really, any good socialist will say that about basically any company – they are inherently against symbols of capitalism like foreign-owned corporations.
The State Department has said it expects Venezuela to fairly compensate Owens-Illinois for seizing its plants, but it’s not really clear what America would do if Chavez gave the company peanuts for its factories. This isn’t even the first seizure this month – Chavez nationalized the Spanish farm supply company Agroislena on October 4th, calling it an oligopoly.
Chavez has also seized assets of ExxonMobil, steel maker Sidor, cement company CEMEX – overall, 195 businesses have been seized this year, making Owens-Illinois just the latest casualty in Chavez’s war on foreign investment. Chavez may think he’s helping Venezuela by getting some nice factories and turning them into national agencies, but within a few years they’ll be shells of what they once were.
This is the way of the global socialist – death to any and all business above the level of corner store, and even they must have the proper permits. It’s a terrible recipe for economic stagnation, and a major reason Chavez’s opposition only narrowly missed knocking out his legislative majority earlier this year.
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