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Tue Dec 4, 2012, 02:27 PM

Venezuela chocolate king thrives despite controls


El Rey's growing business illustrates how some entrepreneurs are managing to hold on and even thrive in Venezuela despite more government regulations and state takeovers of companies and farmland. Producers of crops such as coffee and sugar have struggled in the face of price controls and cheap imports.

El Rey used to go through just four bureaucratic steps to export its chocolate. Now, owner Jorge Redmond says the list of requirements has grown to more than 50.

Some cacao plantations have been taken over by the government, and while those seizures haven't affected El Rey, the company suffered a major setback a decade ago when its model farm was overrun by squatters. Those who took the land planted corn and cut down towering mahogany and saman trees.


German-born Kai Rosenberg, however, tells a different story. He said his small plantations were seized by the government without warning when National Guard troops arrived in 2010. "There was no explanation. They just came and put a lock on my door and said we had to go," said Rosenberg, who hasn't been able to talk with anyone in the government since about compensation.

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