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Cablegate: Expropriate It! Chavez Seizes Buildings in Plaza Bolivar To

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RR RUEHAO RUEHNG RUEHRS
DE RUEHCV #0171 0422208
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FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
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INFO WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS CARACAS 000171

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ECON VE
SUBJECT: EXPROPRIATE IT! CHAVEZ SEIZES BUILDINGS IN PLAZA BOLIVAR TO
CREATE A NEW COMMUNE

REF: 09 CARACAS 1393; CARACAS 97

1. (SBU) On February 7, President Chavez ordered the
expropriation of several buildings in the historical center of
Caracas during his "Hello, President" radio and television program.
On a televised stroll through Plaza Bolivar with his daughter Maria
Gabriela, President Chavez pointed to individual buildings and
asked Jorge Rodriguez, Mayor of the Libertador municipality of
Caracas, to identify them before ordering their expropriation.
"That building there, what is it?" Chavez asked Rodriguez, who
responded that it housed private businesses. "Expropriate it
Mister Mayor! Expropriate it! We have to convert this into a
great historical center," Chavez said.

2. (SBU) Although it was not immediately clear which
buildings Chavez had identified during the broadcast, Mayor
Rodriguez later announced that four buildings in Plaza Bolivar-La
Francia, Jose Mendoza, Las Gradillas, and Hotel Catedral-had been
declared "public utility" (NOTE: On September 25, 2009, the
Institute of Cultural Patrimony declared 1,216 properties of
"cultural interest," including La Francia, Jose Mendoza, and Las
Gradillas, and placed restrictions on their transfer and
modification. See Ref A for further analysis. END NOTE).
According to press reports, La Francia (commonly known to
Venezuelans as "The Gold Market" for its jewelry stores) is owned
by the Oriente University and houses over 90 businesses; the other
two buildings contain clothing stores, law firms, and restaurants,
as well as the offices of the Foundation for the Protection and
Defense of Cultural Patrimony of Caracas (Fundapatrimonio), a
government institution created to preserve the cultural heritage of
Caracas. On February 8, the independent daily press was filled
with stories of the hardships the expropriations imposed on the
displaced business owners. The Municipal Council of Libertador
approved the expropriations on February 9, and an official
announcement was expected to appear in the Official Gazette as
early as February 10.

3. (SBU) During the February 7 broadcast, Chavez asked
National Assembly (AN) deputies Dario Vivas and Ulises Daal, who
are both members of Chavez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela
(PSUV) and the AN Commission on Citizen Participation, to review
the Communal Council Law, the Popular Power Law, and the Social
Property Law in order to organize Plaza Bolivar into a commune and
strengthen the socialist economic model. Chavez said that the
communes should develop a system of socialist trade that would
allow areas that did not produce food to exchange products with
those that did. Finally, Chavez told Vivas to draft a "communal
charter," to be approved by referendum in each commune, that would
establish a constitution for the communes, allowing them to draft
and approve their own laws.

4. (SBU) Government officials have announced a series of
expropriations across the country since the beginning of 2010. On
January 12, President Chavez ordered the expropriation of the
Central Sugar Producer of Tachira (CAZTA) for production
irregularities; on January 15, the Mayor of Zulia state's San
Francisco municipality authorized the occupation of the Wholesale
Market of Maracaibo (MERCAMARA); on January 17, Chavez announced
the expropriation of the Exito hypermarket chain and the Sambil
Mall in the La Candelaria neighborhood of Caracas (Ref B); and on
February 6, the Governor of Falcon state ordered the occupation of
the Hotel Medano Club for violating the health code.
DUDDY

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