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5% own 75% – And Hugo hates it!
Chavéz’s land reforms are truly more than forcible land distribution

The news is that the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavéz’s interface with socialism has now progressed from anti-Americanism to domestic land reform. But his land reforms move has faced widespread criticism from the West. How much is true? Jacobo Arbenz’s 1954 attempts in Guatemala and Salvador Allende’s 1970-73 attempts in Chile, to initiate land reforms, met with Washington’s ire and CIA sponsored coup. But the fact is that Chavéz treads cautiously, learning steadily from history. The ‘Law on Land and Agricultural Development’ was enacted in November 2001, after which the government seized land from the biggest private estates before redistributing it among the landless. Since 2001, the government has seized more than 2 million hectares of land under the agrarian reform programme.

Venezuela, like other Latin American countries, has witnessed an extremely unequal land ownership system, where only 5% of the population controlled roughly 75% of the agricultural private land. Importantly, almost 60% of the agricultural labourers have been landless. Migrating to urban centres, these landless labourers have flocked to slum areas, complicating things further. The oil boom of 1990s succeeded in earning petro-dollars, the benefit for which again flowed to select few of the elite. Neglect of agriculture and iniquitous land equation made Venezuela a net food importer. The land reforms seek to change exactly that.

For Chavéz to succeed, his land reform initiatives have to be merged with provisions of financial credits, technical expertise and marketing assistance for the farmers. But all in all, there is no doubting the fact that Hugo Chavéz has redefined socialism dramatically and humanely. If only Leftists across the world could learn from him...

By:- B&E

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