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Chavez threatens to expel U.S. envoy

January 26, 2007|From the Associated Press

CARACAS, VENEZUELA — President Hugo Chavez warned Thursday that the U.S. ambassador could be asked to leave the country if he continued "meddling in Venezuela's affairs."

Ambassador William R. Brownfield had said U.S. companies and investors must receive a fair price for their shares of Venezuela's largest telephone company, Compania Anonima Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela, popularly known as CANTV, when it is nationalized.

"If you continue meddling in Venezuela's affairs, first of all, you are violating the Geneva agreements and getting yourself involved in a serious violation, and could ... be declared a persona non grata and would have to leave the country," Chavez said.

Earlier Thursday, Brownfield told local Union Radio that the planned takeover of CANTV should proceed "in a transparent, legal manner" and that Venezuela's government must offer "fair and quick compensation to the people who are affected or the owners."

"These are the only obligations that a government has when it decides to nationalize an industry," he said.

New York-based Verizon Communications Inc. holds the largest minority share of CANTV, which was privatized in 1991. The takeover jeopardizes an agreement by Verizon to sell its 28.5% stake in CANTV to a joint venture of America Movil and Telmex, controlled by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.

The sale had been awaiting Venezuelan government regulatory approval.

Chavez, who is steering Venezuela toward socialism, has said he wants an immediate state takeover of the telephone company and will not pay shareholders the market value.

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