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Venezuela: War on private property?

By Veneconomy

12.01.05 | The war to the death against big estates decreed by President Chávez in the Poliedro put paid to the illusions held by many who still believed that the government was going to act rationally and within the confines of the law. These were vain hopes that evaporated with the setting up of a National Agricultural Commission consisting of governors who support the present administration and government officials.

This Commission will have a “constitutional mandate” to incorporate the land it considers “idle, abandoned or underused” into “the productive process of the country,” according to the Decree on the Reorganization of the Ownership and Use of Land Suitable for Agricultural Use. The land so considered will be handed over to groups of the population and organized communities for its productive, sustainable use.

That all sounds fine on paper, but …

There is a notable absentee in this decree: the right to private property. Nowhere does it make any mention of respect for private property or of any mechanism for compensating those who, at the time, hold rights over the confiscated land.

Nevertheless, spokesmen from the government coalition side have said that the ownership of the properties that are affected will be reviewed. This could be seen as a good sign, or it could be merely for show, as it is well known that, in Venezuela, very few landowners can show that they own the land based on documents going back to a royal decree of the 16th century. A malicious application of the concept of ownership would leave owners defenseless.

The seriousness of this situation stems from the fact that this is a strategically calculated attack on every Venezuelan’s right to property. This strengthens the thesis held by VenEconomy that it is not an effort aimed at benefiting a vulnerable sector of the population, but one whose purpose is to dismantle the private sector and to serve as an means of reprisal against anyone who opposes the process.

The most regrettable thing in all this is that, without the slightest reaction from the opposition or other sectors of society, a start is being made in Venezuela to strip some citizens of their property in order to hand it over to others without the slightest regard for the rule of law and with no sustainable social objective.

Today, it’s rural land; tomorrow it will be the turn of urban land. Then they’ll come after homes, industries and any asset that, on the pretext of social justice, the Bolivarian process deems necessary and expedient.

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