Mexico City, Mexico, July 25, 2022 (venezuelanalysis.com) – President Nicolás Maduro visited the Villa Zamora 2021 community in Miranda state in order to deliver restitution to families whose houses and crops were destroyed during an eviction attempt in April.
The April 12 raid, allegedly ordered by opposition mayor Raziel Rodríguez to favor a local corporation, saw law enforcement agents burst into the Villa Zamora 2021 plot, destroying houses and razing crops.
During the visit Friday where Maduro delivered newly built housing and deeds to six affected families, he declared that “justice” had been done in the case. The homes were built as part of the government’s Great Housing Mission project, which has delivered over four million homes to low-income families.
The raid was allegedly requested by Guatire Textil, a company that claims ownership of the 0.8-hectare property on the outskirts of Caracas. However, a group of campesinos started working the abandoned land in 2013, and in accordance with the Land Law that allows for unproductive plots to be put to use, were awarded titles by the Venezuelan Land Institute in 2016.
The effort to evict the campesinos from the Villa Zamora 2021 community drew swift condemnation and spurred Venezuela’s judicial branch to open an investigation into the case.
The incident also caused an outcry in the National Assembly, with parliamentarians appointing a commission to investigate an incident and pledging to avoid similar episodes in the future.
A number of institutions, including the Land Institute and the Ministry of Urban Agriculture, likewise offered support for the campesino families in order to help them restart production and build makeshift shelters.
President Maduro was joined in the ceremony by a handful of high-ranking Chavistas, including lawmaker Diosdado Cabello, Governor of Miranda State Héctor Rodríguez, and Minister for Communes Jorge Arreaza.
Cabello, who championed the cause of the Villa Zamora 2021 community in the National Assembly, credited Maduro with acting swiftly to deliver restitution.
Exequio Ruiz, a local campesino leader and one of those detained in the April opeation, said the Villa Zamora 2021 community had long been a victim of attacks by Guatire Textil as part of an effort to drive them away over their struggle to recover the land.
Representatives of the Ministry of Ecosocialism revealed that forged documents were used to justify the April raid.
The opposition mayor’s involvement in the eviction effort was brought to light by a leaked audio message in which he said the campesino presence was an “invasion,” utilizing language often employed by opponents of land reform. He was summoned by the attorney general’s office but no charges were brought forward.
A former policeman, Raziel Rodríguez won the Zamora mayoral race on the Fuerza Vecinal ticket by a razor-tight margin in the November 2021 regional and municipal “mega-elections.” The municipality, which includes Guatire, a commuter town on the outskirts of the capital Caracas, had been governed by Chavismo since 2000.
In recent years in Venezuela there has been a renewed effort by large landowners to extract greater rents from land through an expansion of the agri-business model, bringing them into direct conflict with campesinos who are fighting to control and produce on land previously left idle.
With a reduced capacity to import foodstuffs as a result of the US-led sanctions regime, the Venezuelan government has paid more attention to the need to produce food domestically and achieve food sovereignty in the country.
The campesino sector has likewise worked to increase their capacity to mobilize, organizing protests in order to protect their political gains and to press the government to provide greater support for small and midsize producers.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.