CARACAS, May 17 -- Venezuela must cut exports of raw materials like iron and aluminum to process them at home instead, and should also nationalize transport firms serving basic industries, President Hugo Chavez said on Saturday.
The socialist leader said capitalists inside and outside the South American nation were benefiting from its natural riches and it was necessary "to reduce the high levels of exports of raw materials, iron, briquettes, aluminum, and use them for national development."
Nearly all the mineral-rich nation's heavy and basic industries are now in state hands, thanks to nationalizations during Chavez's 11 years in power.
He was speaking at an event to swear in the new presidents of state-run companies in those industries.
Chavez said small transport businesses serving the mining industries in south Venezuela should be put in state hands.
"Nationalize the raw materials' transport sector," he said, ordering one local company, Norpro, to be immediately passed into the hands of state oil company PDVSA.
Chavez also said his government had not been able to reach a compensation deal with steel pipes maker Tenaris (TENR.MI: Quote) (TENA.BA: Quote) for the takeover of its briquettes unit Matesi, so it would be expropriated.
Venezuela took operational control of Matesi last year.
"We haven't been able to reach a friendly accord with its owners, so we are going to expropriate Matesi," he said. "We can't keep playing cat and mouse ... I await the decree to expropriate and take control of Matesi."
Chavez has nationalized large swathes of Venezuela's economy, and a Mexican food processor's local unit was taken over last week.
Critics point to declining production figures and say he is wrecking the economy, but Chavez supporters say he is putting Venezuela's wealth in the hands of the people.