Venezuela begins takeover of Hilton-run hotel
Associated Press
2009-10-15 05:32 AM
President Hugo Chavez's government began taking over management of a Hilton-run hotel on Venezuela's Margarita Island on Wednesday.

Tourism Minister Pedro Morejon said a 20-year concession granted to the company has expired and the government "has taken legitimate control of an asset that belongs to all the people of Venezuela."

Chavez issued a decree last week ordering the "forced acquisition" of the Margarita Hilton & Suites and its marina, though news of the edict did not surface until Tuesday.

Morejon said the government has held majority ownership of the hotel since 1995, when a banking crisis forced many of the hotel's shareholders to sell their assets to the state.

It was not immediately clear what assets Hilton owns within the hotel complex, but the decree forces it to sell whatever it has. Officials have not said how much Venezuela will pay in compensation, or when.

Representatives for Hilton Worldwide did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. A spokeswoman said Tuesday that the company was analyzing the move to determine how its interest in the hotel will be affected.

Margarita Island is one of Venezuela's main tourist destinations, and the hotel has more than 300 rooms and about 150 timeshares, plus restaurants, a casino, souvenir shops and a marina.

Chavez's decree said the Tourism Ministry will be responsible for running the resort.

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