Inflation czar Chavez threatens milk plant nationalization as price controls cause shortages

CARACAS, Feb 10, 2008 (AFP) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday warned Venezuela could expropriate milk processing plants based here and owned by Italy’s Parmalat and Swiss-owned Nestle. Caracas blames exporting to other countries for the supply chain woes. Exporters blame price controls the government put in place five years ago.

“It doesn’t make any difference if we set up (state) milk processing plants if there is no milk to process because it is all taken away by Parmalat or Nestle,” Chavez complained in his weakly radio and television program “Hello Mr. President.

“This government has got to take a tougher line,” he warned.

“If it is proven that Nestle or Parmalat — under different economic means of pressure or blackmail, such as by offering money in advance — are making off with the raw milk output and leaving state plant without the milk they need, then that is called sabotage.

The Constitution has to be enforced, the government has to step in and expropriate the plants,” Chavez stressed.

“We are facing an economic conspiracy and we are forced to act

to defend national security,” Chavez added.

Venezuela for months has been rocked by shortages o