Here is a short article on Hugo Chavez’s socialist car to free Venezuelans from the “yoke of capitalism.”
The factory was opened with great fanfare by the president three years ago. It is a joint venture between Iran and Venezuela, which Mr Chávez predicts will turn his country into a car exporter. It is also intended to be an example of socialist production principles, although its workers see things a little differently.
In December they downed tools over the company’s refusal to negotiate a collective contract. Their wages, even at the grossly overvalued official exchange rate, are worth around $25 a day. They complained of poor safety conditions and exploitative work practices. Their supposedly socialist employer refuses to recognise trade unions and has ignored the labour ministry’s order to reinstate sacked union activists.
Venirauto’s cars are rehashes of clapped-out 1980s models from the imperialist West. The Turpial, a five-door hatchback, is based on the Ford Festiva, while the Centauro saloon is a clone of the Peugeot 405, though both are fitted with a conversion kit allowing them to run on natural gas. Their capitalist-busting claims are based on price: they undercut rival models by around 50%. If you can get one, that is.
The plant has a production capacity of 25,000 vehicles a year, but is struggling (even by official admission) to produce 10,000. There is no dealer network, and no credit facilities are offered—unless Mr Chávez personally orders a batch of cars for some favoured group of public employees.
When not praising the Turpial and the Centauro, Mr Chávez has been known to rail against the whole concept of car ownership. “The urge to get a car,” he told students on one occasion, “is poison to the human soul”. With that, he got into his limousine and rode off.