April 8, 2008 [LINK / comment]

Chavez nationalizes cement

President-for-life Hugo Chavez has decreed that Venezuela's cement industry, most of which is foreign-owned, will be nationalized immediately. He justified this move on the grounds that there is a shortage of building materials for people of modest means, but this shows that his radical populist policies are beginning to cause major distortions in the Venezuelan economy. This abrupt move has sparked a dispute over respect for property rights with the Mexican government, since the Mexican company Cemex controls almost half of the Venezuelan market. See BBC.

In 1938, ironically, the government of Mexico nationalized the petroleum industry, most of which had been owned by U.S. companies. It's perhaps a sign of Mexico's great economic progress over the past 20 years that it now takes the side of responsible private businesses, rather than pandering to the (often-gullible) impoverished masses.