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Chavez threatens to nationalise banks

Published: 11:08AM Monday November 30, 2009 Source: Reuters

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned the nation's private bankers that they must comply with the law or face nationalisation, regardless of their banks' size.

"I'm telling the country's private bankers, 'he who slips up loses, I'll take over the bank, whatever its size,'" he said.

"You want me to nationalise the banks?" he said in his weekly Sunday television show "Alo Presidente." "I have no problem with that."

He said banks wanted to "collect people's money ... to make more money." He added that the purpose of banks was not to enrich a minority of the populace but rather help the development of the country.

In power for a decade, Chavez has nationalized broad swathes of the economy. In July, the government took control of Spain's Banco Santander unit, Banco de Venezuela, for a purchase price of $1.05 billion.

On Nov 20, the bank seized four small banks, accounting for about 6% of Venezuela's deposits.

Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez then said the takeovers were due to concerns about credit portfolios, problems explaining the source of funds and failure to comply with some obligations.

Bankers not in compliance - Chavez

Chavez spoke Sunday from nationalized farmland in central Lara state, from where he broadcast his multihour show.

Addressing the banking theme, he said unnamed bankers "are not complying, they do not want to comply with the function for which a bank should exist (such as) that is in the law.

"This is occurring right now with a group of private banks, that's a demonstration that those private banking sectors don't want to learn, they don't want to accept that there is a constitution ... and that there are laws."

Venezuela's banking sector is dominated by 10 banks that control 70 percent of the total funds.

The four banks seized on Nov 20 were Banco Confederado, Banco Canarias, Banco Provivienda and bolivar Banco.

On Friday, a court acting on prosecutors' request banned travel abroad of 16 executives - eight from Confederado, six from Provivienda and two from bolivar Banco.

Chavez said if it were up to him, he would have jailed the 16 executives due to flight risk.