Chavez nationalizes Bank of Venezuela

CARACAS, August 1, 2008 (AFP) – Leftist President Hugo Chavez on Thursday said he will nationalize the Bank of Venezuela, one of the country’s largest, and has asked the bank’s Spanish owners, Grupo Santander, for a meeting to set a price for the deal. “We’re going to nationalize Bank of Venezuela. I’m calling on (Grupo Santander) to come and start negotiating,” Chavez said in a speech on television and radio.

“They wanted to sell the bank to a Venezuelan banker, and as head of state I’m saying no. Sell it to the government, to the state.

“We’re going to recuperate Bank of Venezuela. We’re very much in need of a bank of that magnitude,” Chavez said.

Chavez said the Santander group withdrew its offer to sell the bank to a private banker once the government expressed interest. He said he had a “copy of the pre-agreement document” between Santander and the banker, whose identity he did not disclose.

Chavez said he expected a backlash from Spain.

“There’ll be headlines in the Spanish press, ‘Is Chavez harming Spain’… to undo the (diplomatic) relations we’ve just mended,” he said, alluding to his meetings last week in Spain with King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

The meeting closed a diplomatic