Chavez starts land redistribution

Barry Stoller bstoller at
Sat Sep 8 17:59:54 MDT 2001

Reuters. 8 September 2001. Venezuela's Chavez Takes First Step to Land

CARACAS, Venezuela -- In the first step toward a radical agrarian reform
in Venezuela that might involve property confiscation, President Hugo
Chavez presented poor farmers with deeds to thousands of acres of land
on Saturday.

At a ceremony in the oil-rich western state of Zulia, the leftist leader
exhorted wealthy landowners to donate unused land to the state, or face
heavy taxation and even confiscation or eviction under a forthcoming
land law.

"Today's act is a step toward the implementation of the Law of Lands and
Rural Development by the revolution, so there can finally be justice in
the distribution and use of land," said former paratrooper Chavez during
the ceremony to award some 105,000 acres of property in the hands of the
state-owned National Agrarian Institute.

Chavez also announced he would create a new Agriculture Ministry to
promote the rural economy.

"I take this opportunity to call on all those who have a lot of land and
are not using it to voluntarily put it at our disposal. And if they do
not, we will have no alternative but to turn the screw on them," said
Chavez, wearing his trademark military fatigues.

"The land law will be very severe concerning the appropriate use of
property," the populist leader said. The measure would regulate land
use, he said, making sure that the best quality soils were used for
producing crops and not pasture.

Noting a lack of funding undermined previous attempts at agrarian reform
in Venezuela dating back to the 1960s, Chavez said his government would
provide loans and technical assistance to new farmers.

As part of a "vast strategic plan" to develop the central axis of the
country, Chavez announced plans to build a new city to the south of the
giant Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela's western oil hub.

The president has announced plans for several such new cities to
resettle the poor from the precarious shantytowns that cling to hillside
and river gorges in the capital Caracas.

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Barry Stoller

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