Venezuela will nationalize a fleet of oil rigs belonging to U.S. company Helmerich and Payne, the latest takeover in a push to socialism as President Hugo Chavez struggles with lower oil output and a recession. In recent years, Chavez has also taken over assets in telecommunications, power, steel and banking.
The 11 drilling rigs have been idled for months following a dispute over $49 million already owed by Venezuela to the Oklahoma-based company. Venezuelan oil minister Rafael Ramirez said the rigs were being nationalized to bring them back into production. He added that companies who refused to put their rigs into production were part of a plan to weaken Chavez's government,
Chavez has kept pressure up on the private sector in recent months, blaming a "parasitic bourgeoisie" for Venezuela's recession and 30% inflation rate. He has also threatened to nationalize Polar, the nation's top brewer and food processor. The government has also seized a bank belonging to an owner of the leading opposition TV station and issued an arrest warrant for his partner, who is now on the run.