CARACAS – President Hugo Chávez signed orders for the expropriation of 10,000 hectares (24,691 acres) in order to press ahead with Venezuela’s agrarian-reform program and stimulate food production.
Chávez signed the document on his Sunday television program, “Hello, President,” broadcast from near his home town in Barinas state where the lands were expropriated.
The president said that the seized farms were non-productive or their supposed owners did not have valid titles.
He said he was aware that the measure would spark criticism of his government.
“What do the big landowners say? That this is robbery. Just like a robber says when they catch him: ‘I’m innocent,’” Chávez said.
“Almost all these large spreads come from dispossessions and violence by the powerful against the peasants, the Indians, the poor. That’s why the revolution has come, to put things in order,” the socialist head of state said.
“There can be occupants and farmers using the land to produce, but if they don’t produce adequately, they lose their right to use it,” he said.
Chávez said that some of the expropriated farms were dedicated to growing sugar cane, which quickly exhausts the soil, when they should be used for growing tomatoes, peppers and onions, “because this is top-quality land.”
The Venezuelan government has said that it will continue the seizures of large rural estates and poorly used land in order to achieve a self-sufficient food supply. EFE