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Venezuela Tries To Create Its Own Kind of Socialism

At a sleek, airy factory built by Venezuela's populist government, 80 workers churn out shoes -- basic and black and all of them to be shipped to Fidel Castro's Cuba, a leading economic partner.

With no manager or owner, the workers have an equal stake in a business celebrated as a shining alternative to the "savage capitalism" President Hugo Chávez constantly disparages.

"Here there are no chiefs, no managers," said Gustavo Zuñiga, one of the workers, explaining that a workers' assembly makes the big decisions.

There's also no need to compete -- production is wholly sustained by government orders.
Like the Venezuelan economy itself, the assembly line here is designed to put workers ahead of the bottom line and, in the process, serve as a building block in Chávez's dream of constructing what he calls 21st-century socialism. According to a 59-page economic blueprint for the next six years, free-market capitalism's influence will wane with the proliferation of state enterprises and mixed public-private firms called social production companies, the objective being to generate funding for community programs.

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