Chavez acceleraties land reform programme

Gerrard Winstanley evnuk at
Fri Feb 11 01:05:10 GMT 2005

A direct action movement of land occupations on the part of farmers is
pushing the land reform process forward.
"Peasants are taking land from landowners," said Garcia. This is "one
of the most important factors in the deepening of the radicalization
in Venezuela."

Blacks have key role in Venezuelan revolution
By: Chris Nisan
Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder
Originally posted 2/2/2005

"Black people are particularly conscious that they are playing a
protagonist role in our [Venezuelan] process," said Jesus "Chucho"
Garcia, speaking about Black people's role in the ongoing working
class radicalization unfolding in the South American nation.

In his recent visit to Minnesota, Garcia also addressed efforts to
defend Venezuela against U.S. government attempts to overthrow the
elected government of President Hugo Chavez. Garcia is director of
international relations of the Afro-Venezuelan Organizations Network
in Venezuela.

Garcia's remarks were made at a meeting on January 28 at the
University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. Garcia was here on a
three-day speaking tour discussing Venezuelan politics, culture, and
the Black contribution to Venezuelan history. The tour included talks
at the United Steel Workers of America Hall in Minneapolis and at St.
Cloud State University.

About 75 people attended Friday's meeting in Anderson Hall on the
university's West Bank. The crowd was filled with youths. Many in
attendance were politically active. Garcia's presentation was titled
"Afro-Venezuelans and Venezuela's Revolutionary Process."

Garcia spoke about the historical contributions of Black people to the
revolutionary struggles for freedom in the Americas. He also spoke
about the current struggles of Venezuelan working people to press
their demands for jobs, land, education and culture, and better living
conditions that have opened up since 1998 with the election of Hugo
Chavez. The struggle to defend the sovereignty of the nation against
repeated attempts to overthrow the elected government of President
Chavez was also an important theme of his presentation both at the
university, and at earlier talks.

The struggle in Venezuela
The struggles of working people deepened and intensified with the
election of Chavez last August. The Chavez government has run afoul of
Washington and a large section of the Venezuelan elite because it has
responded positively to the initiatives of the nation's working and
oppressed to defend their economic, social, and political interest by
adopting a number of progressive laws.

These include a land reform law, laws to protect small fishermen,
legislation strengthening state control of oil, and programs to expand
literacy and access to medical care funded in large part by revenues
from oil. "Eighty percent of the profits were going to five percent of
the population. Now profits go to the majority for education and
health care," said Garcia. "We are advancing towards a society of
equality," said Garcia.

A key part of what Garcia called the "revolutionary process" has been
the political awaking of the country's Black population. Garcia
explained the political advances that Black people have made in the
context of these struggles. "Eighty percent of the vote in the
Afro-Venezuelan communities was for Chavez. Of the 3,000 hectares of
land distributed to the peasants, 20 percent has gone to Blacks," said

He explained that before the election of Chavez, Black people were
absent from the political discussion in the country. "We demand to
have a public space where we can analyze the demands of the
Afro-Venezuelan. For us this represents the revolution in the revolution."

Land reform
The discussion at Friday's meeting was wide-ranging and lively. A
number of people asked questions about the recent movement of land
seizures by farmers and the newest Land Reform Law passed by the
Chavez government. A direct action movement of land occupations on the
part of farmers is pushing the land reform process forward.

"Peasants are taking land from landowners," said Garcia. This is "one
of the most important factors in the deepening of the radicalization
in Venezuela."

One such occupation, on the El Charcote ranch in Cojedes state, has
received international attention because its owner, Sam Vesty, is a
wealthy British businessman.

On January 10, the federal government issued a decree aimed at
accelerating land distribution to the nation's small farmers.
According to the BBC, more than 10,000 peasants went to Caracas to
hear the announcement by President Hugo Chavez.

The law calls for unproductive land to be confiscated by the state and
turned over to landless farmers to work to help meet the country's
food needs. The law also provides for the review of private land
titles by the government to assess if they are legal. If current
owners can't produce adequate documentation, their land can also be taken.

Farm families across the country explained that these measures are
necessary because a tiny minority of landowners own most of the arable
land, leaving most of the peasantry landless and poor and Venezuela
importing most of its food. "Any self-respecting revolution cannot
permit such a situation," said President Chavez in a New York Times

According to numbers from the 1998 census, about 1,000 big farmers —
five percent of all farmers and ranchers — owned 75 percent of the
country's arable land. That census said that 90 percent of the land
turned over to landless farmers under a 1960 land reform had since
returned to the hands of large landholders.

U.S. interference opposed
"We are opposed to our sovereignty being violated," said Garcia,
responding to a question on the recent kidnapping of a Colombian
guerrilla leader on Venezuelan territory by agents organized by the
Colombian government.

Colombian Defense Minister Jorge Uribe said on January 12 that agents
of his government had paid some Venezuelan police to act as "bounty
hunters" and kidnapped Rodrigo Granda, a leader of the FARC
(Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), in Caracas, the country's
capital. The kidnapping occurred on December 13. The FARC is a
guerrilla movement which has been engaged in armed struggle against
the Colombian government. "President Chavez refuses to call the FARC
terrorists," said Garcia.

Tens of thousands marched in Caracas on January 23 to protest the
action. "This provocation came from Washington," Chavez told the marchers.

The State Department denied Venezuelan accusations of a U.S. role in
the kidnapping of Granda. However, when asked by the press about U.S.
involvement, State Department Spokesman Adam Ereli admitted that
Washington helped "provide information" to the Colombian government.

"They toppled the president, and in 48 hours the people put him back
in," said Garcia, referring to the massive mobilization which blocked
an attempted military coup in April of 2002. Three different times,
working people have mobilized and defeated U.S.-backed attempts by
pro-U.S. forces to destabilize and overthrow the elected government: a
short-lived military coup of 2002, a business organized lockout of
workers in December of that year, and a presidential recall referendum
last August.

Education, medical care, and Cuban assistance
Several questions by members of the audience dealt with the question
of education and medical programs initiated by the Venezuelan
government with assistance from Cuba.

One of these programs, named Barrio Adentro, which translates roughly
as "Into the heart of the neighborhood," has brought thousands of
volunteer Cuban doctors to the country to operate free neighborhood
clinics in working-class districts and rural areas across the country
where workers and farmers have had little or no access to health care.

Barrio Adentro is one of the social programs that began last year,
along with nationwide literacy campaigns now involving four million
people, and have spread around the country with aid and volunteers
from Cuba.

There are currently over 15,000 Cuban volunteers in Venezuela.

World Youth Festival
An announcement was also made at the meeting about the World Youth
Festival to be held in Caracas, Venezuela, this August. The festival
is the world's largest gathering of anti-imperialist youths and
students. A local organizing committee has formed to help organize a
delegation for Minnesota to the conference. Its next meeting will take
place on Sunday, February 6, at 2 pm at the La Raza Student Cultural
Center at the University of Minnesota.

For more information on the festival, write MNWorldFest2005 at
Chris Nisan welcomes reader responses to rclark at

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