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Venezuela consumerism grows amid socialist rhetoric

Plastic surgeons are performing nips, tucks and breast implants at a record pace. BMWs are being snapped up from the sales lots. And sleek new shopping malls are springing up among the high-rises in Venezuela's capital.

Although President Hugo Chavez is urging Venezuelans to adopt more ascetic socialist values, a culture of consumerism is flourishing as an oil boom surges through the nation's economy.

Shoppers are buying up everything from cellphones to Scotch whisky at a rapid clip as the economy benefits from high world oil prices and banks compete for clients by cutting consumer loan rates in half.

Venezuelans bought 343,000 automobiles last year, a 50 percent increase over 2005."Everything is selling - sport utility vehicles, pickups, buses, everything," said Jorge Garcia Tunon, who runs one of the leading auto showrooms in Caracas. "The demand is impressive. The market has grown like crazy."

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