Alberto Vollmer owns a sugar plantation and rum factory in Venezuela. In fact--he owned thousands of acres that had been in his family for some 200 years. That was until 18 months ago when the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took 2,500 of those acres--1/3 of Vollmer's total land--as part of his proclaimed "socialist revolution." CNBC's Michelle Caruso-Cabrera has been in Venezuela all week--reporting on the recent and some say dramatic changes in Venezuelan society. She profiled Vollmer for this story.
As Caruso-Cabrera explains, Chavez has the private sector wondering what he will "appropriate" next. In a speech earlier this month (Chavez was recently elected to a third term) Chavez promised to nationalize Venezuela's oil refineries, utilities and the nation's largest telecommunications company. He's just announced plans to require commercial banks in the country to pay some of their profits toward his social programs. And the land that Vollmer lost is part of a Chavez plan to take land that in his words, "is not properly utilized." This goes not only for land, but for homes and businesses as well.
The Vollmers did not just stand by as their land was taken. They went to court armed with deeds dating back to the 1600's. But--they were turned away. The land that was once filled with sugar cane is now a socialist worker cooperative.