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Author Topic: Land redistribution - is Chavez doing it right?
Babbler # 6477

posted 14 November 2005 04:16 PM      Profile for Contrarian     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Toronto Star article.
The privately owned, 1,200-hectare Santa Isabel farm has grown sugar cane for decades, but Antiaga says the Venezuelan government will help him use the land to grow pumpkins, beans and squash.

Under a land redistribution campaign led by President Hugo Chavez, thousands of rural poor like Antiaga are being granted rights to farm arable land traditionally concentrated in the hands of wealthy landowners...

...While critics say both the Venezuelan and Zimbabwean governments are giving land to peasants with little agricultural experience, Venezuela offers farming loans while Zimbabwean farmers severely lack resources to develop their land.

With agriculture a small player in Venezuela's oil-dependent economy, it is unlikely that a fall in food production would cause the kind of food shortages and other crises it has in Zimbabwe, notes Orlando Ochoa, an economics professor at Andres Bello Catholic University in Caracas...

...Yet Yaracuy farm owner Vladimir Rodriguez says it is ironic that the same government has not prevented co-operatives and extortionists from destroying more than $15 million worth of sugar cane on 33 farms in his state alone, according to his statistics...

From: pretty far west | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
Rufus Polson
Babbler # 3308

posted 14 November 2005 04:37 PM      Profile for Rufus Polson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Well, while the article raises some questions, I think it's somewhat slanted.
For instance, apparently one of the major categories of seizure is land to which the current occupier does not have a valid title. That is, sometime in the past it came into the hands of that person or perhaps that person's dad or whatever, without actually being purchased, quite likely without having been available for purchase. It seems as if a lot of the Venezuelan farmland is in the possession of people who got it through corruption or force. Yet the article consistently refers to these people as the "owners", and presents little challenge to people quoted as saying that taking it away again disrupts the rule of law. Well, if you're interested in the rule of law, such people aren't "owners" in the first place, they're just people whose squatting is so large scale as to gain a gloss of legitimacy. The rule of law would suggest that "their" land damn well should be taken away.
Second, there is quite a bit of reference to one particular case of peasants forcibly taking over part of a plantation which is not apparently on the list, and to one case of violence by delinquents. This is problematic, to be sure. But I notice there is *no* reference to the much more prevalent violence coming from the planters, who have been running gangs of thugs and conducting assassinations of peasant activists. I notice also that the plantation that gets discussed the most is not idle, and the whole question of the legitimacy or otherwise of taking over unused land is sidestepped.

All in all, the article does, if you also added in the violence by the plantation-running class, point to a case for saying that government control has to some extent broken down in the rural areas of Venezuela. As to the actual government *policy*, it seems as if there is relatively little discussion of that or of cases where it's actually being applied, so it's hard to tell whether the *policy* is any good or not.

From: Caithnard College | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
jeff house
Babbler # 518

posted 14 November 2005 05:31 PM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
It is actually common in Latin America that landless labourers participate in land seizures.

Even in relatively conservative countries, the government will attempt to bargain for the land, to soften the social tension.

These "tomas", or seizures, usually occur on unused, or underused land. The peasants who undertake them are quite aware that the government won't help them when the object of the takeover is an active, taxpaying enterprise.

I don't know the Venezuelan case well. However, in neighbouring Colombia, I wouldn't give two cents for the title to any piece of land. The civil registers, where title is recorded, are completely overwhelmed with fraud, payoffs, and strongarm tactics. Force has far more to do with the titles than law or purchase ever did.

From: toronto | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 838

posted 14 November 2005 06:21 PM      Profile for jrootham     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I don't know the Venezuelan case either, but in Brazil land fraud is an art form.

The fundamental issue in Brazil is a combination of very large scale theft in the early days of the colony (much like here, except possibly even more so), a conflict between large land "owners" and the Portuguese crown then, and a legal system that will not rule on the who owns the land if there is a fundamental documentation conflict.

I can't resist telling this story here.

Apparently a classic technique is to "sell" some land to a confederate who doesn't pay for it, then sue him and use the resulting court documentation to sell the land to someone else. Another thing that makes this feasible in Brazil is that land title doesn't transfer until any mortgage is paid off. fixing that might be one of the easiest ways of improving life in Brazil for poorer people.

From: Toronto | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged

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