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jueves, julio 21, 2005

Chicago Tribune on "21st century socialism"

Interesting article in the Chicago Tribune discussing Venezuela's economic plans, including the concepts of endogenous development and worker co-management.

Faced with violent protests and a bitter recall referendum, Chavez spent his first six years in office fighting for his political life even as he poured billions of dollars into social programs.

But now, with the political opposition vanquished and oil prices near record highs, the Venezuelan leader is in a strong position to launch what he describes as "21st Century Socialism.

This is a much more intelligent article than the recent rash of U.S. reports trumpeting the latest poll results that only 28% of Venezuelans support socialism, while failing to mention that only about 28% support capitalism!

Eschewing Marxism-Leninism, Lanz says, Chavez has developed an economic model called "endogenous development" whereby state oil money will finance the creation of thousands of small-scale cooperatives in agricultural and other areas to provide jobs and foster community development.

A second leg of Chavez's master plan is something known as "cogestion," roughly translated as co-management, where the state is helping workers purchase shares of companies they work in to give them a greater say in management.

The goal of all this, they say, is to lift millions out of poverty by reducing Venezuela's reliance on oil, which has left the country with a weak manufacturing and agricultural base and over-dependent on imports of food and almost everything else.

Of course, the significance of all this goes beyond Venezuela. To developing countries, if its model succeeds, it may represent a way out. To the United States, it represents the 'threat of a good example', with the added twist of oil.

Whether Chavez succeeds or fails in his economic gambit could have enormous impact across the continent, where the Venezuelan leader is gaining influence amid a resurgence of the Latin American left.

The outcome also is crucial to the United States, which imports large quantities of Venezuelan oil despite Washington's hostility toward Chavez and Chavez's anti-Americanism.

Critics, as always, say that the new models are not workable, while external factors imperil their chances of success.

Private investment remains low because of uncertainty over Chavez's long-term goals and his feud with the U.S. Then there is the issue of oil prices, which provide a windfall now but could become a liability.

. . .

One model for Chavez's new economy sits on a hill overlooking Catia, a working-class neighborhood in Caracas.

There, the government spent about $3 million to build a shoe factory and clothing factory employing about 400 people. The project includes a health clinic and basketball court.

Inside the clothing factory, several dozen women belonging to a new cooperative sat at sewing machines making aprons, sweatpants and other items.

The government is providing the employees an interest-free loan, technical support and other assistance to get them started and has been paying each employee a $90 monthly stipend.

"This is a source of work for the neediest," said Ana Guedez, a 39-year-old former homemaker who now works as a seamstress. "We are just starting out."

But Frausto, who manages the Catia project, said it is uncertain whether the factory's production and quality will ever be high enough to ensure its long-term viability.

Full article (free registration required)

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