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CNBC's Caruso: Chavez's Policies Keep Private Sector Guessing


Alberto Vollmer's sugar plantation and rum factory in Venezuela had been in his family for 200 years.

But as CNBC's Michelle Caruso-Cabrera reports, President Hugo Chavez's government took over a third of Vollmer's land 18 months ago in the name of his "socialist revolution."

Caruso-Cabrera, who has been reporting from Venezuela all week, says this is just one example of the dramatic changes taking place in Venezuelan society.

As Caruso-Cabrera explains, Chavez has the private sector wondering what he will "appropriate" next.

In a speech earlier this month, 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.

Venezuela Thursday

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.

If not critical of the takeover, Vollmer seems cautiously resigned to it.

"Let's say there a new set of rules you have to adapt to," Vollmer tells Caruso-Cabrera. "The idea is to stay in Venezuela and invest in Venezuela and make the best of the situation we live in."

As if to make the best of a bad situation--Vollmer has made friends with the squatters on his "fomer" land--he's also teaching them agriculture--and even become a godfather to some of the children. He's also employing some 240 former gang members as workers.

However much land he lost, the Santa Teresa Rum factory owned by Vollmer still employs 3,000 works and keeps pouring out some 18 million liters of rum a year. He says he wants his family to remain on the land--for another two hundred years if possible. And he sees a future for his country.

But in the end, Vollmer says he would just like to understand the new society sweeping his country.

"High risk, high gain," he says. "There are a lot of opportunities today and I think there will be more. We just have to know more about what the rules are."