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Venezuela to Expropriate Mall

It doesn't look like Venezuela would be a very good bet if you're a developer looking to expand internationally.

President Hugo Chavez ordered construction halted on a major shopping mall in Caracas on Sunday, saying the government will expropriate the unfinished building.

The Venezuelan leader said it would be out of line with his government's socialist vision to allow the new Sambil mall to take up precious urban real estate — and that unbridled consumerism isn't his idea of progress either.

Chavez said the mall, scheduled to open in La Candelaria district in downtown Caracas next year, would severely clog an area that already is so crowded "not a soul fits."

The hulking concrete and brick structure takes up an entire city block and according to the Sambil Web site was to include 273 shops.

"We're going to expropriate that and turn it into a hospital — I don't know — a school, a university," Chavez said to applause during his Sunday television and radio program, "Hello, President."

Constructora Sambil, the company building the mall, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It operates Sambil malls in cities across Venezuela, including another vast shopping center in Caracas.

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