VENEZUELA: Nationalizing Oil, Building Steel

Its Caribbean beaches, its expanses of jungle, its kinetic, polyglot capital, have long made Venezuela a fascinating place for off-the-beaten-trackers to visit. More important, for six decades the country has been sort of an ancillary Texas, supplying the U.S. with immense quantities of cheap and handy oil. Now, riding on the rapid ascent of petroleum prices, Venezuela is fast becoming one of the most formidable nations in the Western Hemisphere.

Last year its output of goods and services leaped nearly 40%, to $25 billion —mainly because its oil revenues hit $10 billion. Among...

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