The South American leftist leader sworn in on Wednesday after announcing plans to nationalize telecommunications and electricity supplying. Washington asked for compensations.
"Fatherland, socialism or death - I take the oath," Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez said on Wednesday after being sworn in for a new six-year term that he vows to use to build “the Venezuelan path to Socialism”. The leftist anti-US leader of this oil-rich South American nation announced plans to rewrite the country’s constitution and the nationalisation of “strategic sectors” of the economy, which has already roiled financial markets.
As he took the oath, Mr Chavez said he would give up his "entire life to the construction of Venezuelan socialism". The president has already promised to extend his "Bolivarian revolution" and called on the National Assembly to give him the power to rule by decree.
In his speech, Chavez characterized the preceding years of his presidency, 1999-2006, as a “phase of transition,” which ends now, and that “we are now entering a new era, the National Simon Bolivar Project of 2007-2021.” This project would head towards “Bolivarian Socialism, which requires greater levels of effort and engagement, clarity and efficiency, and revolutionary quality,” said Chavez.
According to the Venezuelan leader, the new period will be used to introduce radical reforms in order to build the “Socialism of the 21st Century”, a self-made doctrine that combines Marxist-Leninist literature with local nationalism and indigenous traditions. All his new cabinet named on Monday, has sworn in promising to fight for these ideas.
Even when not fully defined, Chavez’s new doctrine has already taken its first steps. On Monday, the President announced plans to nationalize “strategic sectors” of the economy and mentioned two: the national telecommunications company and the power distribution company. Both are under control of US firms.
The announcement roiled financial markets. As the United States criticised Chavez's moves against private property, the stock market lost almost a fifth of its value on Tuesday, debt prices tumbled to a six-week low and the currency changed hands at nearly twice the official rate.
In an attempt to ease tensions, President Chavez blamed alarmism for the stock plunge. "They have created a scandal because of my nationalization announcement (on Monday)," he said. "... But they are playing at using alarmism. Well continue playing, enjoy yourselves, enjoy yourselves because what's coming down the road is nice. So start to enjoy playing with alarmism," he added.
The stock exchange can fall but the Venezuelan economy is not going to fall - it's booming like never before," Chavez said in his speech. Later, it became known that Caracas has not yet finished a plan to nationalize these companies, as the newly appointed Finance Minister, Rodrigo Cabezas, said that the government had ruled out confiscation or expropiation of private property to achieve that goal.
"The nationalization process will be carried out in accordance with the legal and constitutional framework, that, among other things, forbids expropriations," he said in an interview. Markets reacted positively to these comments.
No foreign leaders attended to Chavez’s new inauguration, as the President unexpectedly anticipated the ceremony, which was originally schedulled for February 2. In the afternoon Chavez left Caracas to attend to the inauguration ceremony of his Nicaraguan counterpart, Daniel Ortega.