Even as Chavez promises a 21st century socialist revolution to end "savage capitalism," rejects the very rich and promotes collective values, Venezuela is enjoying a consumer spending boom as its oil exports bring in record revenues.
While the tough-talking former soldier has spent billions of dollars on social development programs that have made him popular among the poor, consumers in 2005 spent roughly $8.3 billion at the nation's shopping malls.
Whiskey distributor Diageo said Scotch whisky sales grew by 55 percent in 2005 with the largest growth in sales of 18-year scotch, which costs around $60 per bottle -- equivalent to a third of the monthly minimum wage.
Meanwhile, vehicle sales jumped a whopping 70 percent in 2005 over 2004, and the country's BMWdistributor said its sales tripled last year.
"Honestly I can't understand -- I wish I could understand -- the parameters of this 21st century socialism," said Arnold Moreno, president of the nation's shopping mall chamber. The group reported shopping mall sales shot up by almost 40 percent in 2005 over 2004.
Any questions on why Chavez is so popular?