"It is not a nationalization, it’s a temporary use of the storage tanks through a lease and payment of a reasonable price," said President Manuel Zelaya.
U.S. Ambassador Charles Ford was not happy with the announcement. He said it showed "a lack of respect to private property" and that "the consequences of this situation could be very serious."
A congressional commission created to study the new program determined that it could save the country—one of the poorest in the hemisphere—about $66 million a year. The program allows the government to take control of imports away from the small group of oil companies which includes Shell, Exon Mobil, and Chevron.
"Investment is based on clear rules, and decisions of this kind are not a good message," a spokesperson for an oil companies group in Honduras told Reuters.
But the message to Hondurans is one that should be well received, which is what worries Washington and foreign oil companies. Ambassador Ford also visited Honduras recently over concerns of the country’s growing relationship with Venezuela. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is nationalizing many of his country’s industries, including oil.
The trend could prove to be contagious.