Chavez takes control of Venezuelan ports
The ruling party of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has voted to shift control of the country’s ports, airports and highways away from states and to the federal government, international news outlets reported over the weekend.
On Sunday, Chavez ordered naval vessels to patrol the country’s ports and warned that state governors who challenged legislation nationalizing the ports would be imprisoned. The move directly affects the country’s two biggest ports — Cabello and Maracaibo, both of which are called on regularly by container services from North America, Europe and Asia.
Chavez directly called out the governors of the two states that are home to those ports, alleging that corrupt state government officials were allowing drug smuggling to occur at seaports and airports. He said the move to bring the transportation network under the direct control of his government was a national security issue.
Critics of the Chavez government see the legislation as a move that will increase the president’s power. They say that a vote in November in which the opposition party gained ground in certain states — including the capital city of Caracas — prompted the Chavez-controlled National Assembly to bring under national control key infrastructure entities in states where the populace opposed Chavez.
“Under the law, states and municipalities can no longer collect tariffs at transportation hubs or establish tolls along highways, meaning governors and mayors will have less money for local public projects,” Associated Press reported Sunday.