The Venezuelan government seized 16 unproductive ranches in Anzoategui, Apure, Aragua, Barinas, Cojedes, Guarico and Portuguesa states, according to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on his weekly television show, Alo Presidente, on March 25. According to Chavez, the approximately 816,000 acres will be managed by cooperatives and used for cattle production.
This was a step, Chavez said, toward a "collective property" policy as part of the government’s "drive towards socialism," he said from one of the seized farms in the state of Barinas. The land now has become "social property to satisfy the needs of the people," he said. "It cannot be production to generate profits for one person or a small group of people that become rich exploiting peons who end up becoming slaves, living in poverty and misery their entire lives," he said. "This is an attack by the state and the people on large land holdings,” Chavez said. "How can the country develop if we don’t put this land to work?" He said that the government will continue to expropriate unproductive land, Another 13 farms in the coming weeks, and will use force if necessary. In the past five years, almost 2 million acres have been seized after being declared unproductive.
Venezuela imports over 70 percent of its food. Part of Chavez’s campaign of ‘endogenous’ development involves domestic agriculture production for internal consumption. Last year a drop in production led to some rationing of meat and milk. Land has been redistributed to homeless farmers to use collectively for agricultural or cattle producing purposes.