Troops seize British-owned cattle ranch in Venezuela

Ecovillage Network UK office at
Fri Jan 13 14:17:49 GMT 2006

This is several months old - very interesting nevertheless

Troops seize British-owned cattle ranch in Venezuela

Jo Tuckman
Saturday September 10, 2005
The Guardian,,1566794,00.html

Venezuelan troops have reportedly seized a huge British-owned cattle 
ranch as part of an agrarian reform programme targeting large estates 
that the government says it wants to redistribute to the poor.

Agroflora, a local affiliate of Vestey Group owned by meatpacking tycoon 
Lord Vestey, said in a statement on Thursday that a convoy of troops and 
cooperative farmers had arrived at the ranch, which is located in the 
south-western state of Apure.

However, official confirmation of the events could not immediately be 

The land redistribution plans are rooted in a new constitution, which 
was passed soon after President Hugo Chávez took office in 1999, and 
which defines large estates as being "contrary to the social interest".

A land reform law was approved in 2001. This authorised expropriation in 
cases where historical ownership cannot be proved to go back far enough, 
or when estate owners allow land to lie idle.

Two months ago, the national lands institute, a government agency, ruled 
that the 66,700-acre ranch owned by the Vestey Group in Apure failed on 
both these considerations.

In its statement, quoted by the Associated Press, the company said the 
property provided pasture for 8,500 cattle, although some of the land 
was not usable during the rainy season because of flooding.

The company has 12 ranches in Venezuela and claims to provide 4% of all 
the beef consumed in the country.

The Apure ranch is one of two properties owned by the group which has 
been in the eye of the land reform storm for the past year.

The other property is another cattle ranch located in the central state 
of Cojedes. In March, the national land institute ruled that this estate 
was unlawfully held and underused.

At the time, the company blamed the land's under-productivity on the 
invasion of about 1,000 squatters encouraged by President Chávez's 
promises to help the many poor in the oil-rich country.

The president claims that a high proportion of the largest estates in 
Venezuela were illegally obtained through corruption, before he took 
office, and that redistribution will help alleviate poverty and improve 

The fear of widespread expropriations helped to unify the anti-Chávez 
opposition that tried to oust him, first with a coup in 2002 and then 
with a two-month strike. The president bounced back by winning a 
referendum on his rule a year ago.

Since that time, the land reform process has accelerated with 
investigations beginning into dozens of large estates across the country.

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