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Hugo Chavez's redistribution of farmland is a failure.

Old 06-20-09, 11:48 PM
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Hugo Chavez's redistribution of farmland is a failure.

This exactly what most of us, including me, expected to happen, based on the experiences of other countries that did the same thing. Chavez is an idiot.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...061903400.html

In Venezuela, Land 'Rescue' Hopes Unmet

Farmers Struggle on Expropriated Plots


By Juan Forero

Washington Post Foreign Service

Saturday, June 20, 2009

LAS VEGAS, Venezuela -- Dreaming of a new life, Ramón Barrera came to El Charcote, a vast farm here in northwestern Venezuela, several years after President Hugo Chávez's populist government had expropriated the property from its longtime owners and begun distributing parcels to small farmers like him to work.

Six months after he arrived, Barrera's dream is still just a dream -- his 37 acres are fallow, so he spends his time feeding grain to nine scrawny pigs. He and other farmers trying to earn a living on the farm's sunbaked expanse said the technical help they had been promised never materialized.

"Things are serious here. There is no water, no electricity, no comforts," said Barrera, 64. "There is no credit. There is nothing. How are people supposed to work?"

Chávez's so-called back-to-the-land movement calls for the redistribution of land -- increasingly properties that the state has taken over in what officials term a "rescue" or "recuperation." The objective is to ensure "food sovereignty," thereby reducing dependence on imports.

But nearly five years after the measures were implemented nationwide, farmers and agriculture experts say, Venezuela is not only far from self-sufficient in food, but also more dependent than ever on foreign countries. Food imports rose to $7.5 billion last year, a sixfold increase since Chávez took power a decade ago.

That has not stopped the government from accelerating its policy of dismantling big haciendas, holdings that officials often describe as unproductive. Owners are compensated, unless authorities accuse them of having acquired their properties illegally. Those who take over are promised courses in farming; some are settled in newly built communes. The policy is rooted in a 2001 law and driven by Chávez's insistence that the land belongs to everyone.

"I say to all who say they own land: In the first place, that land is not yours. The land is not private. It is the property of the state," Chávez said last month on an episode of his weekly television show broadcast from rural Barinas state, where he grew up.

"The land is for those who work it," the president said, adding that those who do not produce lose "their right to occupy the land." Chávez then turned to Agriculture Minister Elías Jagua, seated among Chávez's red-shirted supporters in the audience, and said, "That is what the law is for, Elías, unbending.

"Today we are going to recuperate other lands," he added. "Give me the list to announce it at once before it gets late." He then checked off one farm after another, while his ministers applauded.

Among the once-productive farms put out of business earlier this decade was this 33,606-acre ranch in Cojedes state owned by the Vestey Group, a British company. El Charcote used to turn out 3.3 million pounds of beef a year, making it one of the country's top 10 producers. Today, the 13,000 head of cattle that once roamed here are gone.

The small farmers working the property have a few cows, but those animals, and the small corn patches here and there, are mainly for personal use. New farm machinery, painted the government's trademark red, gathers dust in a lot on the outskirts of this town.

"If there is a word to describe all this, it is 'stagnant,' " said Carlos Machado, an agriculture expert at the Institute of Higher Administrative Studies in Caracas and a former agricultural consultant for the Organization of American States. "The government policy to increase the crop production in the country is a complete failure."


The Agriculture Ministry and the National Land Institute did not respond to requests for interviews.

Officials, including Chávez, had previously announced that they have taken over more than 5 million acres of land -- a total area bigger than New Jersey -- and have increased the amount of land under cultivation and provided thousands of Venezuelans with new livelihoods. Agriculture experts also confirm increased production of fruit, including pineapples, melons and bananas, since the measures were implemented.

But production of some of the mainstays of Venezuelan agriculture -- beef, rice, sugar cane, milk -- has fallen off, economists and food producers say. They attribute the contraction to the chilling effects of the land-confiscation program and government-set price controls. With consumption increasing, food prices have soared in Caracas, and there have been occasional scarcities.

In Aragua, a leading agricultural state that is a bastion of support for Chávez, farmers have been bracing since the government began in recent weeks to expropriate the properties of big cane producers.

On a recent day, Vicente Lecuna, whose family has owned the Santa Clara farm in Aragua since the 1890s, scrambled from one office to the next looking for paperwork.

Expropriations, he knew, often begin after authorities demand to see titles going back to the early 1800s -- documents many farmers are unable to assemble. That prompts the state to declare that somewhere in the ownership chain the land was illegally acquired.

Already, the state's land agency has taken a portion of the 2,300-acre farm, uprooting cane and preparing the soil for corn. "This isn't land for corn," Lecuna said, sounding exasperated. "In this region, corn has never been planted."

Nelson Fernández, 62, who oversees sugar cane cultivation for Lecuna, appeared incredulous as he told how government officials had arrived on a recent day and announced that the Santa Clara was not productive. That was a pretext for the intervention, he said.

"These people know nothing about agriculture," he said.

Just weeks ago, authorities seized nearly 20 farms in Aragua, triggering panic among farm owners, said Juan Dos Santos, director of Punta Larga, which owned the Tamarindo sugar cane plantation. Though the company filed reams of paperwork with a local court to prove ownership and the farm's productivity, Dos Santos said, authorities seized the farm in March.

"In our case, we had lots of infrastructure, an irrigation system, a service road, electricity, warehouses, machinery," he said, adding that Punta Larga had invested $18 million in the property.

"We presume it was because it was a well-developed hacienda," he said of the confiscation.

Similar measures have been tried before in Latin America, where the struggle over land has led to civil wars and simmering violence from Central America to Colombia to Brazil. In most cases, the so-called reforms have failed to spur production.

Felicia Escobar, a lawyer and consultant on land issues who used to work for the Agriculture Ministry, said land redistribution has failed across the continent because farmers are not given incentives to produce and governments have not provided adequate credit or technical assistance.

She said that in Venezuela, the new farmers are not even given title to the lands they occupy. In some cases, they are grouped into communes and expected to work as a unit, with little stake in their plots.

"That is socialism," she said. "It did not work before, and it does not work now."


Here in Las Vegas, on what's left of the Vestey hacienda, the new tenants said they remain firm supporters of the government as they attempt to make a go of farming.

María Rosario Chirinos, 40, said she worked in a small shop before she was assigned a plot of land, which she is planting with corn. "My dream was to have a little piece of land, to survive, because I had nothing," she said.

But just down the road, César Alviares, 50, who also supports Chávez, said he is barely getting by raising a few cows and chickens. The crops he tried to grow all failed, he said, because he never received credit or technical help to control flooding.

"I put in two hectares of yucca plants -- the water came and finished them off," he said. "I put in a hectare of bananas -- the water came and finished them off. The corn, all of it. So in the end, I just have pasture."
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Old 06-20-09, 11:55 PM
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Re: Hugo Chavez's redistribution of farmland is a failure.

Sounds like Zimbabwe.
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Old 06-21-09, 11:08 AM
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Re: Hugo Chavez's redistribution of farmland is a failure.

Originally Posted by grundle View Post
María Rosario Chirinos, 40, said she worked in a small shop before she was assigned a plot of land, which she is planting with corn. "My dream was to have a little piece of land, to survive, because I had nothing," she said.

But just down the road, César Alviares, 50, who also supports Chávez, said he is barely getting by raising a few cows and chickens. The crops he tried to grow all failed, he said, because he never received credit or technical help to control flooding.

"I put in two hectares of yucca plants -- the water came and finished them off," he said. "I put in a hectare of bananas -- the water came and finished them off. The corn, all of it. So in the end, I just have pasture."
She forgot the part of getting the land without earning it.
As for the chavez supporter, his is a reasonable expectation. After all chavez gave him the land for nothing. Should not chavez also provide the crops, labor and know how also. Vey good business plan he has, plant, rinse, repeat.
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Old 06-21-09, 01:08 PM
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Re: Hugo Chavez's redistribution of farmland is a failure.

"These people know nothing about agriculture," he said.

Well, that farmer is clearly missing the point. The socialists have power, they have ideology and most importantly of all, they have noble intentions and motivations. Pointing out that they don't really understand the businesses they're assuming control over is nothing more than hateful nitpicking.
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Old 06-21-09, 02:06 PM
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Re: Hugo Chavez's redistribution of farmland is a failure.

I thought socialism was what we had in the U.S. since January 20. We should call this "super duper extra socialism" or something.

Originally Posted by arminius
She forgot the part of getting the land without earning it.
Lots of people n capitalaist countries do just fine with property they didn't earn.

Anyway, it sounds lke the big probem with Venezuela -- at least based on this article --isn't the lack of ownership, it's the lack of infrastructure. And yes, I know that private ownership would create a stronger incentive to develop infrastructure, but prvate ownership is netiher necessary nor sufficient for adequate nfrastructure.
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Old 06-21-09, 06:30 PM
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Re: Hugo Chavez's redistribution of farmland is a failure.

Originally Posted by JasonF View Post
Anyway, it sounds lke the big probem with Venezuela -- at least based on this article --isn't the lack of ownership, it's the lack of infrastructure. And yes, I know that private ownership would create a stronger incentive to develop infrastructure, but prvate ownership is netiher necessary nor sufficient for adequate nfrastructure.
Yup, infrastructure, technology, knowledge and money.

When Norway nationalized their oil industry, that already had the above and they knew what they were doing.

When Brazil, in the past 10+ years, setup landless farm workers on millions of acres of government-owned land and expropriated farmland, they already had a strong agricultural industry. Now they are beeing called the world's "breadbasket".

The problem in Venezuela, is that they had little agricultural sector to speak of. Most of the land was there but just wasn't farmed. So they pretty much started from scratch. Some stuff worked, like the Mercal food stores and coops, and cultivated farmland has grown by 45% in the past 10 years. But yeah, they have huge problems with infrastructure/technology/knowledge.
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Old 06-22-09, 12:35 AM
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Re: Hugo Chavez's redistribution of farmland is a failure.

Originally Posted by JasonF View Post
I thought socialism was what we had in the U.S. since January 20. We should call this "super duper extra socialism" or something.
Chavez did not do this the day he took office. What makes you think Obama would? First he has to work his health care scheme back to life. These things take time.
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Old 04-08-10, 02:41 AM
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Re: Hugo Chavez's redistribution of farmland is a failure.

Now Chavez has also taken over many of the private supermarkets, and that's a failure too.


http://www.businessweek.com/magazine...1046603604.htm

March 11, 2010, 11:00AM EST

A Food Fight for Hugo Chavez

With his popularity sagging, Venezuela's fiery President is seizing supermarkets from owners. But can he keep stores stocked?

By Geri Smith

Caracas - It's 10 a.m., and tempers are already flaring at the Cada supermarket in Caracas' San Bernardino neighborhood. The store has just taken delivery of two pallets of 4- and 11-pound sacks of sugar. With dozens of shoppers swarming around him, Rigoberto Fernández tries to pass out the bags one by one. The clerk hands a smaller one to a gray-haired woman, but she flings it back. "How dare you tell me I can't have one of the larger bags?" she screams. The sack splits open, spilling sugar everywhere.

Within 10 minutes, the shipment has vanished.
"I am so fed up with these food shortages," Fernández mutters as he sweeps up the mess. "People get desperate and start behaving like animals."

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's response to the food shortages: find a scapegoat, in this case supermarket owners. On Jan. 17, the mercurial leader expropriated six Exito stores, controlled by France's Groupe Casino. A month later he seized Cada, another Casino chain, with 35 supermarkets and eight distribution centers.

El Presidente's efforts to transform his country into a Cuban-style socialist state are sputtering. With its vast oil wealth, Venezuela shouldn't suffer from shortages, yet inefficient farms, government takeovers of supermarkets, and a 50% currency devaluation in January have thrown the food supply into disarray. That's bad news for Chávez, whose anti-capitalist message and ceaseless drive to undermine U.S. influence in Latin America have made him Washington's biggest headache in the region. Chávez's approval rating among Venezuelans has dropped to about 45% from 70% three years ago.

Supplying low-cost food to the poor has been a centerpiece of Chávez's presidency. He has expropriated food processors, stores, and more than 6 million acres of farms and ranches, convinced that the government can feed Venezuela better than the private sector does. Under state ownership, though, production has suffered. From 1999 to 2008, per capita, sugar cane was off by 8%, fruit declined by 25%, and beef production dropped by 38%, according to Carlos Machado, an expert in agriculture at the Institute of Higher Administrative Studies, a business school in Caracas. "The cooperatives have failed and our cattle ranching has been decimated," Machado says.

While Chávez was flush with oil profits, it was easy to take up the slack with purchases of chicken from Brazil, beef from Argentina, and powdered milk from New Zealand. Food imports jumped from $1.3 billion in 1999, when Chávez took office, to $7.5 billion in 2008—about 70% of what Venezuelans eat. But falling crude oil prices and last year's 3.3% contraction of the economy left Chávez with less money to buy food abroad, or to prop up poorly run state farms and food processors. Government officials "think they know how to run businesses, but they just run them into the ground, just like they're running the country into the ground," says 47-year-old homemaker Antonia Rangel, one of the shoppers who managed to get a bag of sugar at the Cada store.

"SOCIALIST MEGASTORES"

A new consumer protection law, which went into effect on Feb. 1, allows Chávez to expropriate virtually any company if he deems it to be in the national interest. Exito's alleged misdeed: raising food prices following the January devaluation (though two months later, on Mar. 9, the government authorized stores to boost prices on some basic goods by as much as 35%). Chávez wants to transform the chain's outlets into what he calls "socialist megastores" that sell food, appliances, and clothing with virtually no markup. "The measure is one further step in the Venezuelan state's policy of transforming capitalism into socialism," Chávez declared on his weekly Hello President TV show. Exito's parent and the government haven't disclosed any details on compensation.

The supermarket seizures have alarmed grocers, but few are willing to speak publicly for fear of more harassment. "This is one of the worst times we've ever lived through," says the CEO of a major supermarket chain. "We live in constant fear that we could be shut down or taken over by the government."

Chávez has been skirmishing with supermarkets for years. In 2002, big food producers and distributors participated in a two-month nationwide work stoppage that nearly brought the economy to its knees. In response, Chávez opened a rival network of government-run grocery stores, where more than a quarter of Venezuelans now shop.

The biggest state-owned chain, Mercal, has 16,600 outlets, ranging from street-corner shops to huge warehouse stores. They employ 85,000 workers selling basic products such as rice, sugar, and beans at prices as much as 40% below those the government sets for private stores. Mercal also has a fleet of trucks that serve street markets, and it offers free lunches and afternoon snacks at 6,000 soup kitchens. "Mercal is a very noble mission that contributes to a higher quality of life for Venezuelan families," says Carlos Alonzo Sánchez, manager of a busy Mercal store near El Junquito, a vast hillside shantytown on the outskirts of Caracas.

Joelis Muńoz recently carted 9 pounds of sugar, 7 pounds of rice, and 4 1/2 pounds of corn flour home from Sánchez's Mercal outlet. Her bill was $4.88, half what it would have been at a private supermarket. "Since the government opened these stores, my family hardly ever goes to regular supermarkets anymore," says the 21-year-old single mother.

CHEAP CHICKEN

The state-run stores serve as a platform for Chávez's revolutionary message. In the middle-class California Norte neighborhood of Caracas, an outlet of a second government-controlled chain called PDVAL (owned by state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA) offers frequent reminders about the source of the bounty. At the entrance, a banner proclaims: "Food Sovereignty! All power to the people!" A few feet down the first aisle, a placard reminds shoppers that the "government is fighting for your food security." Says Luis Pedro Espańa, a sociologist at Andrés Bello Catholic University in Caracas: "It's quite clear to anyone who shops at state-run stores that they owe it all to the President, who brought cheap chicken to the people."

Sometimes, however, there aren't any cheap chickens to sell. The PDVAL store offers tomato sauce from Spain, nutritional drink mixes, and cans of tuna at regulated—but not subsidized—prices. On a recent Friday, though, there's no chicken, beef, or sugar. To fill empty shelves, the store has stocked an entire aisle with nearly 1,000 bottles of cooking oil made by a company the government took over two years ago. Another aisle is filled with hundreds of bags of corn flour. A third is jammed with industrial quantities of dried oregano and curry powder.

When scarce products do arrive, word spreads fast and long lines form.
"I can only let one or two people in at a time so things don't get out of control," says Omar Gálvez, manager of a small Mercal outlet in Petare, a rough Caracas slum.

Supplying Venezuelans with cheap chicken isn't cheap. Félix Osorio, Chávez's Food Minister, oversees Mercal from a spacious office filled with paintings, handicrafts, and other gifts from constituents. Osorio, a 40-year-old Army lieutenant colonel, says the government will spend $605 million this year on food subsidies, plus $1.8 billion to run the Mercal system. "Food is a basic necessity, and not mere merchandise," Osorio says, munching on a midnight snack of white cheese and fried beef empanadas after a long day in the field. "The capitalists," he says, "don't see it that way."

Even so, the government knows it can learn something from the people it frequently calls "squalid capitalists." Taking control of the Exito and Cada supermarkets makes sense, Osorio says, because the government needs more expertise in large-scale retailing. The authorities are negotiating with Groupe Casino and may allow the French company to stay on as a minority partner to help keep the chain running smoothly. Casino declined to comment.

SUDDEN SHUTDOWNS

The capitalists, though, face constant oversight. Members of Cuba-inspired "community councils," or neighborhood watch groups, can make unannounced inspections to look for signs of hoarding. One executive from a nationwide chain grouses about constant visits from tax authorities, the consumer protection agency (to check prices), workplace safety inspectors, and even the National Guard, which monitors store hours to make sure they don't stay open too long and use too much electricity at a time of widespread blackouts. Even when no infractions are found, the executive sighs, "The inspector can say, 'It doesn't matter, I have orders to shut you down for 24 hours,' and he does it—just like that."

Supermarket managers estimate that the government regulates prices on about 20% of the items they sell, but these products account for up to 40% of volume. "We make zero profit on most of the regulated foods, so we have to make up for it by charging more for other goods," says Carlos Hernández, manager of Los Campitos, a small grocery in Caracas' upscale El Rosal neighborhood. And at Exito and Coda stores, says one executive, the government seems intent on eliminating any possibility of turning a profit. "How are they going to replace freezers and forklifts as they wear out?" he asks.

Supermarket owners are watching how the government manages Exito, renamed Bicentenario in honor of this year's 200th anniversary of Venezuela's independence from Spain. Since the takeover, sales have sagged, according to Sintesis Financiera, an economics consultancy. Now suppliers concerned over delays in payment appear to be slowing deliveries, prompting Chávez to warn 60 companies that they may be expropriated if they fail to double deliveries to the chain.

With legislative elections scheduled for September, the fiery President is likely to continue cracking down on food retailers. Although he doesn't face another presidential vote until 2012, he's determined to hold onto his party's majority in the National Assembly. Chávez has won the loyalty of poor Venezuelans with his food subsidies, but as inflation erodes spending power, that support is flagging. After climbing by more than 15% annually from 2004 to 2009, consumption has started to fall, Central Bank data show.

As supermarket owners fret about further expropriations, Venezuelans increasingly say socialism isn't the right path. In a poll by researcher DATOS taken two weeks after the Exito seizure, 58% of respondents said they disapprove of Chávez's takeover of stores. Another DATOS survey found that 86% don't think Cuba is an appropriate model for Venezuela. Chávez "is moving in the opposite direction from what people say they want for their country," says DATOS director Joseph Saade. "People look at everything the government has taken over and they're seeing that the companies have become dysfunctional."
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Old 04-08-10, 09:12 AM
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Re: Hugo Chavez's redistribution of farmland is a failure.

<img src="http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Obama.jpg">
"Now now... now now now listen. What we.... What we have here, is what I like to call a teachable moment. People like to make up scary rumors and throw out words like 'socialism' and 'will not work.' But listen. This is not what the Democrats or I or anyone wants for this country. Nobody will have to have a little bag of sugar in this country. I don't care if you make a dollar or ten million dollars, we will not run out of larger sugar bags. Stores will not simply close. That isn't what any of us are proposing and that kind of language needs to stop."
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Old 04-12-10, 10:52 AM
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Re: Hugo Chavez's redistribution of farmland is a failure.

Originally Posted by Fandango View Post
Sounds like Zimbabwe.
... and Peru in the '60s / '70s (following the earthquakes in the '60s).

Why did Chavez do it? Because the program is very popular with the poorer people of the country, the ones who voted him into office. Very short-sighted thinking.
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