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Chávez's 'Socialist City' Rises

Like most ambitious state projects in oil-rich Venezuela, the new city being built in the thickly wooded mountains here began as a whim of President Hugo Chávez's.

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."

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