Venezuela Changes Name of Caracas Hilton, Converts to Socialist Hotel

The landmark Caracas Hilton hotel was renamed the Alba on Saturday by President Hugo Chavez's government, which owns the building and says it will now be a "socialist" establishment, the state news agency reported.

After 38 years under the management of Hilton, the hotel is now called the Alba Caracas, the Bolivarian News Agency said. The new name means "dawn" in Spanish and is also the acronym of Chavez's Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas trade initiative, which he started to counter U.S.-backed free trade deals.

"The goal is to convert the hotel into a socialist tourism business for the enjoyment of citizens," said Eustacio Aguilera, president of the Simon Bolivar Center, a government cultural institution that owns the hotel.

The name change came after Hilton's concession to manage the 900-room hotel expired on Friday, hotel officials said.

Hilton Hotels Corp., based in Beverly Hills, California, did not immediately return calls or e-mails seeking comment.

Aguilera told the state news agency the hotel will now also serve as part-museum featuring artwork from the Simon Bolivar Center.