Venezuela has nationalised a fleet of oil rigs owned by a US-based company which had been shut down in a dispute over payments.
In a statement the Venezuelan government said that seizing control of the 11 rigs was the only way to get them restarted after a year of idleness.
The move comes as Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's socialist president, pushes ahead with a policy of energy nationalisation as he seeks to expand the state's role in the economy.
He has also taken over assets in telecommunications, power, steel and banking.
The fleet of oil rigs belonging to Oklahoma-based energy firm Helmerich and
Payne have been idled for months following a dispute over payments by the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA.
Announcing the takeover of the rigs Rafael Ramirez, the Venezuelan oil minister, said companies that refused to put their rigs into production were part of a plan to weaken Chavez's government,
"There is a group of drill owners that has refused to discuss tariffs and services with PDVSA and have preferred to keep this equipment stored for a year," Ramirez told reporters in the oil producing state of Zulia.
"That is the specific case with US multinational Helmerich and Payne." Read more .