Chavez threatens Spanish-Venezuela bank's takeover
President Hugo Chavez threatened Wednesday to nationalize Spanish-Venezuelan bank BBVA-Provincial, saying it had a violated the constitution by refusing to grant housing loans.
"If Provincial refuses to respect the constitution and presidential decrees, I will nationalize the bank," Chavez warned at a forum of citizens seeking housing, adding: "I have no problem doing it. I will pay what it's worth."
With two million customers, the bank is the country's third largest behind Banesco and Banco Mercantil. Since 1997, 55 percent of it has been controlled by Spanish banking group BBVA.
Chavez, a populist leader who has carried out major nationalization drives in recent years, relayed to the forum a conversation he had with bank president Pedro Rodriguez: "He told me the bank was not for sale -- but I said you know I can nationalize it, if it's in this country's interests! Be careful what you say!"
The Venezuelan government already controls more than 25 percent of the country's banking sector, since the state's nationalization of the major Banco de Venezuela in 2009 along with other firms.
© 2011 AFP