Venezuela moves to seize thousands of hectares of 'idle' land from British peer

Mark Brown markibrown at
Mon Mar 14 17:39:05 GMT 2005

Venezuela moves to seize thousands of hectares of 'idle' land from British 

Associated Press in Caracas
Monday March 14, 2005
The Guardian

The Venezuelan government is to press ahead with plans to expropriate land 
from a British-owned farm this week, sparking fears of large-scale land grab 
under the leftist government.
The national lands institute ruled at the weekend that the landowner - 
Agroflora, an affiliate of the Vestey Group, owned by the tycoon Lord Vestey 
- did not have a legitimate claim to the land.

The takeover is part of moves to hand 96,440 hectares (238,620 acres) of 
Venezuelan land to the poor.

The state will take a large part of Lord Vestey's 13,600-hectare El Charcote 
cattle ranch in Cojedes state east of Caracas, and most of the 
80,000-hectare Pinero Ranch animal reserve, the land agency said. It will 
also take large chunks of two other ranches. None of the owners could be 
reached for comment.

National land institute director Eliezer Otaiza told Reuters it would take 
the land to develop state-sponsored agriculture projects. "The land is going 
to pass over to us now," he said. "Tomorrow starts the rescue process."

Mr Otaiza said the farms had failed to prove ownership, but had 60 days to 
appeal to the courts.

The decision follows weeks of land inspections as part of President Hugo 
Chávez's 2001 land reform law, which allows the state to expropriate 
farmland if it is "idle", or if rightful ownership is not proved as far back 
as 1830.

Critics denounce the law as a threat to private property, but Mr Chávez says 
most farms were acquired through illegal dealings before he became president 
in 1999.

The Chávez constitution, passed in 1999, says latifundios - landholdings of 
more than 5,000 hectares - are "contrary to the social interest". It states 
that private property can be expropriated in case of "public use or social 
interest", but the government must compensate the owner.

The land agency said the owner of El Charcote could prove ownership only 
from 1840. Several weeks ago Agroflora said it could prove ownership back to 
1830 and that it was not "idle", as officials said, but had been invaded by 
up to 1,000 squatters.

The government has promised to grant rights to 100,000 plots of land to the 
poor by next year.

More information about the Diggers350 mailing list