Chavez eyes Venezuela tourist islands for takeover
CARACAS (Reuters) - President Hugo Chavez said his government would seize private homes on the idyllic Los Roques archipelago in the Caribbean and use them for state-run tourism in the latest move to implant socialism across Venezuela.
"I've always said we should nationalize Los Roques," the ever-pugnacious Chavez said, making the announcement in a telephone call to state television late on Wednesday.
Lying just north of Venezuela's coast, Los Roques' dozens of islands are one of the South American nation's favorite -- and most expensive -- tourist spots, with pristine white sand beaches, coral reefs and teeming sea life.
While many of the islands are deserted, some have small lodges and private homes.
"There are some houses that were illegally built. We're going to take them over," Chavez said, without giving a timeline.
"There are some supposed owners. They privatized it, so to speak, the high bourgeoisie, including the international set."
Since coming to power in 1999, Chavez has nationalized large swathes of the OPEC member's economy, alienating many in the business community but often delighting supporters, especially in the poor areas where he has his power base.
The 57-year-old leader, who is mainly communicating with the nation by phone calls to state media during his convalescence after cancer treatment, said the government would build hostels on Los Roques "for the people."
Yachts confiscated from fugitive bankers would be used to transport tourists, he added.
Representatives of property owners on Los Roques could not be immediately reached for comment.
As a state-administered national park, it is unclear how people have been able to obtain property there.
Chavez is seeking re-election in October 2012 and has often sought to bolster popular support in the past by taking aim at Venezuela's elite and wealthy.