Venezuela’s National Assembly yesterday unanimously agreed to grant President Hugo Chávez special powers to make rulings by decree without the need for parliamentary vote. The decision means Chávez can proceed with his plan to nationalise fixed line incumbent CANTV and its mobile unit Movilnet as well as energy sector assets and companies in other ‘strategic’ segments. National Assembly president Cilia Flores was quoted by El Universal newspaper as saying the special powers bill ‘authorises the president of the republic to dictate decrees with strength, rank and force of law,’ allowing Chávez to advance socialism and ‘deepen the Bolivarian revolution,’ named after independence icon Simón Bolívar.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, CANTV was privatised in 1991, and is currently owned by Verizon Communications (28.5%), Telefónica Venezuela Holding (6.9%), the Venezuelan government (6.6%), employees and benefit funds (6.4%), with the remaining 51.6% held publicly. The company’s shares are listed on the Caracas and New York stock exchanges. The government’s plan to convert CANTV into a state-run entity looks to have permanently derailed an April 2006 deal between América Móvil (AM) and Verizon, under which the Mexican firm and its sister Telmex agreed to jointly purchase the US group’s 28.5% stake in CANTV for an estimated USD676 million.