Chávez’s ‘Socialist City’ Rises
First of Several Grand Projects in Venezuela Reflects Leader’s Monopoly on Big Decisions
By Juan Forero
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, November 27, 2007; A10
Flying in his helicopter north of Caracas over forests filled with monkeys and tropical birds, the president suddenly had a eureka moment — he would carve a self-sustaining, self-contained city from the wilderness. Chávez envisioned this as the first of several utopian cities, a bold plan reflecting both Venezuela’s capacity for undertaking ambitious projects and the president’s growing propensity for making all major decisions.
“He told me, ‘I want to see if it’s possible,’ ” recalled Ramón Carrizales, minister of housing. “So we began to explore it, and we found vast tracts that could be utilized.”
. . . The president’s allies control Congress, the Central Bank and every other major institution. And with the price of oil approaching $100 a barrel, Chávez has the economic muscle along with the political might to carry out his biggest dreams.
“Everyone here knows that no one advises Chávez,” said Luis Miquilena, a former interior minister and mentor to Chávez who has since broken with him. “Chávez is the one who decides everything.”
Megalomania attached to $100 a barrel oil will build a new city in Venezuela, an answer to Brazilia, but this one in the jungle. Will Chavez name it after himself and move the capitol there?
But if the sheikhs of the United Arab Emirates can exercise their egos by creating Dubai, why not?
With a nod in the direction of Dorothy Parker, who made the original remark about Hearst Castle, “it just shows you what God could have done, if he’d only had the money.”