Venezuelan Oligarchy's War Against Land Reform: Death Squads Target Peasant Organizers
Counterpunch: Land Reform in Venezuela
A Brief History of Venezuela's Spectacular Iniquities In Venezuela roughly 75 to 80% of the country's private land is owned by 5% of all landowners. Regarding agricultural holdings, that figure drops to a mere 2% of the population owning 60% of the country's farmland, much of which is fallow.
NarcoNews: Land Reform in Venezuela
Lara, Venezuela, September 2003: Land in Venezuela – as in most of this continent – has been in the hands of big landowners, politicians, and mercenaries, for years. Today, through the revolutionary Agrarian Reform process, this land is being handed over to peasant-farmers, or campesinos....
The winds of change are now blowing over Venezuelan territory.
On August 31, President Hugo Chávez handed over land deeds to campesino representatives from the states of Barinas, Carabobo, Cojedes, Lara, Portuguesa, and Yaracuy at the Cuara Farm School in Jiménez de Quibor, Lara....
The Venezuelan National Land Institute (INTI in its Spanish initials) is carrying out the land distribution under the co-called “Plan Zamora.” The plan – as well as Álvarez’s organization – is named in memory of Ezequiel Zamora, the 19th century Venezuelan peasant leader who struggled for land reform, social equality, and human rights for the poor.
In the first phase of Plan Zamora, more than a million hectares (2.5 million acres) were transferred to campesinos, benefiting more than 40,000 families. The government handed over 31,437 land deeds, 121 farm machines and 30 billion bolívars (US$20 million). The second phase of the plan will be to distribute two million hectares by the end of this year....
The land distribution process has not been easy. Powerful business and political interests have tried every way to stop justice from being done. In the last few years, mercenaries have killed 79 people for defending their land. Marginalized peasant-farmers have begun to seek ways to pressure the authorities into hearing them.
INTI director Leonel Ricaurte said that land distribution affects the powerful groups that governed Venezuela many years ago....
People's Weekly World: Venezuela’s land reform challenges elite
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, signing new land reform decrees last January, declared, “The war against the large estates is the essence of the Bolivarian Revolution. It’s land for the campesinos, land for the ones who work the land!”
Venezuelanalysis: Hitmen Attempt to Assasinate Venezuelan Land Reform Leader
Caracas, Venezuela, June 27, 2005—Land reform leader Braulio Alvarez barely escaped an assasination attempt last Thursday, after receiving two gunshot wounds. Alvarez was intercepted on a highway in the Venezuelan state of Yaracuy by two gunmen after leaving a meeting with local landless workers. The assassination attempt against Alvarez appears to fit into a larger pattern of violence against leaders of Venezuela’s land reform that has emerged since the Land Reform law was first passed in 2001.
Alvarez, a deputy to Venezuela’s National Assembly (AN) as well as an historic peasant leader, was meeting with landless workers last Thursday in the Northeastern Venezuelan state of Yaracuy, a region that includes both large agricultural holdings known as “latifundios” as well as a large manufacturing center. As he left the meeting, a Chevy Blazer pulled up along side him and two masked men opened fire on his car. Alvarez received a gunshot to his right shoulder, and one to his right leg, but is reported to be stable in hospital.
Since Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez passed a land reform law in 2001, violence against those attempting to implement the government’s planned reform has skyrocketed....
According to Claudia Jardim, a journalist for the State Cultural channel Vive who produces a special program on the country’s land reform process, the number of assassinations has increased sharply since January, when Chávez declared war on the Latifundios. Since January, says Jardim, the political murder-rate in the countryside has jumped to an estimated one peasant leader per week.
Cato, predictably, calls it a "land grab."
According to Chavez's concept of property, any land extension of more than 5,000 hectares (approximately 20 square miles) is considered a "large estate."
According to Mises' concept of property,
Nowhere and at no time has the large-scale ownership of land come into being through the working of economic forces in the market. It is the result of military and political effort. Founded by violence, it has been upheld by violence and by that alone. As soon as the latifundia are drawn into the sphere of market transactions they begin to crumble, until at last they disappear completely. Neither at their formation or in their maintenance have economic causes operated. The great landed fortunes did not arise through the economic superiority of large-scale ownership, but by violent annexation outside the area of trade.... (Socialism, p. 375)
Murray Rothbard, to his credit, placed the onus of land-grabbing where it belonged: right square on the heads of the landed oligarchs who own the latifundia:
But suppose that centuries ago, Smith was tilling the soil and therefore legitimately owning the land; and then that Jones came along and settled down near Smith, claiming by use of coercion the title to Smith’s land, and extracting payment or “rent” from Smith for the privilege of continuing to till the soil. Suppose that now, centuries later, Smith’s descendants (or, for that matter, other unrelated families) are now tilling the soil, while Jones’s descendants, or those who purchased their claims, still continue to exact tribute from the modern tillers. Where is the true property right in such a case? It should be clear that here, just as in the case of slavery, we have a case of continuing aggression against the true owners—the true possessors—of the land, the tillers, or peasants, by the illegitimate owner, the man whose original and continuing claim to the land and its fruits has come from coercion and violence. Just as the original Jones was a continuing aggressor against the original Smith, so the modern peasants are being aggressed against by the modern holder of the Jones-derived land title. In this case of what we might call “feudalism” or “land monopoly,” the feudal or monopolist landlords have no legitimate claim to the property. The current “tenants,” or peasants, should be the absolute owners of their property, and, as in the case of slavery, the land titles should be transferred to the peasants, without compensation to the monopoly landlords. (The Ethics of Liberty, p. 69)
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