Thursday, June 24, 2010 
10:04 Mecca time, 07:04 GMT

Caracas to take over US-owned rigs 
            Chavez's socialist revolution has led to banking and power assets 
being nationalised [AFP] 
Venezuela has said that it will nationalise 11 oil rigs owned by a US company.

The takeover of the rigs, owned by the Helmerich and Payne oil firm, is the 
most recent move in a programme of nationalisation as part of the socialist 
'Bolivarian revolution' of Hugo Chavez, the president.

The rigs have been out of use for months due to a dispute over payments by 
PDVSA, the state oil company. 

Helmerich and Payne, which owns other rigs in the country, had said that it 
would not work at the sites until they were paid the $49 million it was owed. 
It did not immediately comment on the planned nationalisation.

Rafael Ramirez, the Venezuelan oil minister, said on Thursday that the 
facilities were being taken over to bring them back into production.

'Weakening government'

Ramirez said that firms like Helmerich and Payne who had refused to put their 
rigs into production were aiming to weaken the government.

"There is a group of drill owners that has refused to discuss tariffs and 
services with PDVSA and have preferred to keep this equipment stored for a 
year," he said.

"That is the specific case with US multinational Helmerich and Payne."

Venezuela has suffered a reduction in oil output since 2008.

Despite having significant oil reserves the country is undergoing economic 
struggles, with power shortages and low food resources affecting Chavez's 
promises to pull people out of poverty.

His government has nationalised telecommunications, power and steel firms 
during the last three years.

The government also nationalised Banco Federal, a mid-sized bank, last week 
giving the state control of 25 per cent of the banking sector.

Legislative elections are to be held in September and Chavez needs to reverse 
popularity losses due to Venezuela's recession before then

Oil-giants such as Halliburton, Schlumberger and Baker Hughes also work in 
Venezuela, although the former pair have avoided public disputes with the 

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