Much of the world media has reported that Hugo Chavez has gone too far. In their stories they describe the perceived “Power Grab” by the president of Venezuela. His efforts are described as “taking control of the economy.” The stories focuses on an apparently horrendous result of the recent presidential decrees: the people of Venezuela will be better able to afford to buy food. As frightening as this concept apparently is to the neoliberal North, there is the other side of the story. While the elite capitalists in Venezuela try to restrict the majority of the people’s ability to buy food, Hugo Chavez is stepping up to the plate to protect the majority of the people of Venezuela. If it were left up to the neoliberal controlled free-market economic agenda, the elite would eat, while the poor would get no more. One might suppose that from the privileged elite perspective one would wonder how a president could dare step in to protect the majority of the people in their country by making sure they can afford food. In the neoliberal capitalist model a president would simply not see any need for helping citizens to be able to eat. We might do well to remember Henry Kissinger referring to hungry poor human beings as “useless eaters.” We also might do well to remember that a fundamental tool of the neoliberal agenda is to bring the majority of the people in our world to their knees, unable to afford food, medical care, housing, and education. Locking workers out of their jobs to restrict income, and refusing to stock food on store shelves, has been a technique used by the elites in Venezuela in the past in their attempts to create despair and frustration. Inflation is often a tool used by the few to manipulate and control the many. A president who orders by decree that the citizenry shall be able to afford to eat would be a president in the best sense of the word. But such a decree isn’t even necessary in Venezuela. According to Title VI Article 305 of the Venezuelan constitution the State “shall promote actions in the national and international economic context to compensate for the disadvantages inherent to agricultural activity.”
Certainly if previous oppressive regimes (with the encouragement and assistance of the IMF and WTO among others) in Venezuela had not all but destroyed the ability of Venezuela to produce its own food supply the majority would not be at the mercy of food importers. Keeping low prices on food seems an appropriate action to compensate for the disadvantages inherent to agricultural activity.