President Hugo Chávez toured a house made of plastic and promised to build thousands more like it for Vene-zuela’s poor as he marked the creation of a national petrochemical company.
Chávez said the new state petrochemical company Corporación Petroquímica de Venezuela, or Pequiven, will step up production of products from plastics to fertilizer as it begins operating inde-pendently from the state-run oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).
“We are going to turn Venezuela into a petrochemical power,” Chávez said, wearing a hardhat as he visited a petrochemical plant in the western state of Zulia on Saturday.
“From today on, Pequiven is independent.”
Stepping through a model home with plastic walls built on the factory grounds, he touted it as an economical solution. He said such homes cost about 35 percent less than those built with cinderblocks.
Officials on Saturday also signed a series of agreements for petrochemical projects, including one to begin producing the plastic houses. Officials said they will be able to produce 1,300 plastic homes this year, and as many as 30,000 next year.
“Save me one for around 2021,” said Chávez, who has said he will retire around that year once his “Bolivarian revolution” for the poor has made its social mark.
Domestic fertilizer needs first
Arguing that it is shameful for Venezuela to import fertilizer since it can produce all it needs, Chávez said the country’s fertilizer companies must meet the needs of the domestic market before selling their products abroad.
Chávez said he will break any alliances or ventures with companies that export their products before domestic needs are met. Pequiven holds stakes in several joint fertilizer ventures.
“I hope our partners in private companies understand,” said Chávez. If “they’re not in agreement, they can pack their bags and leave,” he added.
Pequiven holds a 35 percent share stake in Venezuela’s largest fertilizer plant, Fertilizantes Nitrogenados de Oriente S.A. Pequiven and Wichita, Kansas-based Koch Industries, Inc. each own 35 percent of FertiNitro.
Snamprogetti SpA, the engineering unit of Italy’s state energy company ENI SpA, owns 20 percent, and Venezuela’s Empresas Polar industrial group owns 10 percent.
Any concerns the companies may have about contracts signed with previous Venezuelan governments can be handled by the courts, Chávez said, El Nacional reported, stressing that the country will prioritize making goods for itself rather than exporting raw materials, as in the past.
“Venezuela will never again be anyone’s colony,” said Chávez, a harsh critic of the U.S. government, which he says has exacerbated poverty through “imperialist” policies.
Chávez defended a move to increase taxes and royalties on foreign companies pumping oil in Venezuela, saying “we are defending our interests.”
He also said some $10 billion (euro 8.3 billion) in investment is needed for petrochemical projects, and that it will be important to use some of the country’s international reserves held by the Venezuelan Central Bank.
Chávez said Venezuela should be manufacturing items ranging from plastic toys to Lycra swimsuits.
AP and Bloomberg