CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez ordered the expropriation of Venezuela's largest privately owned steel producer Sunday, the latest in a series of takeovers that has raised concerns among business leaders.
The president said the seizure of Siderurgica del Turbio SA, or Sidetur, is part of his strategy to transform Venezuela into a socialist state.
"I'm announcing the expropriation of Sidetur," Chavez said during his weekly television and radio program, "Hello, President."
He ordered soldiers to guard the company's seven plants and urged employees to cooperate with officials rather than protest the takeover.
Sidetur, a subsidiary of Siderurgica de Venezuela SA, or Sivensa, produces 40 percent of the rebar used for construction in the country.
Founded in 1948, it produces 835,000 metric tons of steel a year, including beams, angles and flats that are sold domestically and exported to nations in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe.
Chavez has expropriated dozens of privately owned companies since he took office in 1999.