Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has ordered the nationalisation of major iron and steel firms, accelerating his drive to bolster the country's industrial base.
Mr Chavez, who has already brought many of Venezuela's biggest industries into public ownership, announced on Thursday that steel companies Matesi, Consigua, Ceramicas Carabobo and Tavsa would be nationalised.
Matesi, a joint venture between Luxembourg-based steel pipe-maker Tenaris SA and Venezula's Sidor, produces 1.5 million tons a year of hot-briquetted iron products.
Tavsa, another Tenaris-owned company, is Venezuela's only maker of seamless steel pipes for the oil industry, producing 80,000 tons a year.
Orinoco Iron and Venprecar, subsidiaries of Venezuelan-owned International Briquettes Holding, which exports iron briquettes, will also be taken into public ownership.
Orinoco Iron produces 2.2 million tons a year and is the largest hot-briquette iron producer in the Americas.
Addressing jubilant industrial workers in Bolivar state, Mr Chavez said that the latest nationalisations advance plans for the construction of 'a single, large integrated industrial complex' that will form a 'solid platform of socialism.'
The companies will be brought under the same management and will refine and process raw materials into finished products in order to reduce Venezuela's reliance on expensive imports and boost local industry, Mr Chavez explained.
'Venezuelan workers are going to give a lesson to the world on how the working class has been resuscitated to make a revolution,' he declared, before announcing a wage boost for thousands of workers and a cut in managers' salaries.
Over the past two years, the government has taken over major steel, cement, electricity, telecommunications and oil firms.
And in the last month, it has seized 75 oil contracting firms, some backed by foreign capital, after the government passed a law extending the state's control over all activities related to the lucrative industry.
Venezuela's National Assembly passed a law on May 7 that 'reserves for the state the goods and services connected to primary hydrocarbon activities.'
'We will start to recover assets that will now belong to the state, as they always should have,' Mr Chavez said at the time.