By Russ Dallen
Latin American Herald Tribune staff
CARACAS -- President Hugo Chavez on Sunday ordered the expropriation of a newly-constructed American-style shopping mall in downtown Caracas.
"There in the soul of Candelaria, they will open a Sambil," said Chavez, during the transmission from El Valle of his 323rd edition of his "Hello President" Sunday talk show. "No, no and no."
He told the Mayor of Libertador Municipality in Caracas, Jorge Rodriguez -- the one remaining Chavista mayor in Caracas -- to revise the construction of the mall, adding that he wanted it stopped "before I get to Miraflores. We will not permit it."
"We're going to expropriate that and turn it into a hospital — I don't know what — a school, a university," said Chavez.
"The construction of socialism cannot deliver vital areas of the people to shopping and excessive consumerism," said the Venezuelan President, who is trying to instill what he calls 21st Century Socialism in the oil-rich nation.
Over the years, Chavez has urged Venezuelans to shed their materialism and their taste for designer clothes, big cars, Scotch whiskey, plastic surgery and American consumerism.
In addition to 273 stores, Sambil Candelaria also was built to have 4,300 square meters of offices, a convention center with capacity for 2000 people, a 10-plex movie cinema, restaurants and a food court.
Private sector analysts found this latest move beyond belief. "This Mall, built exclusively with private sector funds, was aimed at the poorest sectors of Venezuelan society," said Miguel Octavio, head of research at leading Venezuelan investment bank BBO. "After building the Sambil in the East of Caracas and others in Margarita, Maracaibo and San Cristobal, the Cohen group decided to go for it and built this mall oriented towards the lower classes and placed it in a business area which has deteriorated in the belief that it will improve the area and will allow people to spend their time safely at their mall."
Safety is a key concern in Caracas -- with street crime, kidnapping and murder rife -- and Sambil spends over $10 million a year on security to keep their properties safe environments.
In his 10 years in power, Chavez has also expropriated and nationalized the phone company, electric utilities, oil fields and production plants, mines, cement plants and steel factories.
"We must not continue to measure our socio-economic process with the same tools with which capitalism is measured, and that is what is," said Chavez. "We measure the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) like the capitalist countries. Cuba has developed a new method to measure growth."
"Who will invest in Venezuela now when even things like a mall are being taken over by the Government?" asked Octavio.Click here to see Sambil Candelaria.
Click here to watch Chavez announce his expropriation of Sambil Candelaria.