Chavez Orders Takeover Of Land From Food Maker

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered a state takeover of property where Empresas Polar, the country's largest food producer, has warehouses and offices.

A decree ordering the forced acquisition of the land was signed by Chavez on Tuesday, and is the final step before expropriating the property in the city of Barquisimeto.

Empresas Polar, which makes everything from mayonnaise to beer, had asked the Supreme Court to annul the planned expropriation and allow its operations to continue.

Mayor Amalia Saez, a Chavez ally, had ordered the property to be expropriated in March, saying it would be used for housing.

Chavez warned Empresas Polar's president Lorenzo Mendoza, one of the country's wealthiest men, that the government could also decree the expropriation of other company property. "Tell your lawyers to keep calm," Chavez said.

"Don't provoke me. You have plenty of things," Chavez said, referring to other Polar property in the country including plants and warehouses.

Chavez has previously accused Polar of evading government price controls on basic foodstuffs by producing fewer of the price-controlled items. Empresas Polar has denied wrongdoing.

There was no immediate reaction from the company Tuesday night.

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