Caracas, Venezuela, October 24, 2005—More and more large land owners are offering to peacefully negotiate with the government about giving up part of their land for the country’s land reform program, said Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez during his weekly television show Aló Presidente, yesterday.
According to Chavez, the most recent example of negotiations is with the British-owned cattle ranch company Agroflora, which belongs to Britain’s Lord Vestey, which is negotiating to give up a portion of its 304,000 hectares in the ranches of La Bendición Ramera, San Pablo Paeño, Los Cocos and Cañafístola.
A day earlier Chavez had announced that the Branger family, which owns the estate known as Hato Paraima, was willing to give up 30,000 of its 53,000-hectare ranch. The agreement was signed by the owner, Jaime Branger, the governor of Cojedes state, and the President of the National Land Institute, Richard Vivas. “The Paraima ranch is an example of what we can achieve in a coordinated effort,” said Chavez.
Similarly, a few weeks earlier, Carlos Azpurua, the owner of the estate La Marqueseña, said he was willing to give up all but 1,500 hectares of his 8,490 hectare ranch. (One hectare is about 2.5 acres.) The Paraima estate will be divided up among 415 families, who will also receive machinery and credit as part of the land reform program.
As a result of the agreement with Azpurua, the dialogue efforts have come to be known as the “Chaz” method, which is an abbreviation of CHavez-AZpurua. “If you are a landowner, the Chaz method will open the path, but if you want to take the path of the courts, well, we will not prevent you,” said Chavez during his television program.
The Chavez government has repeatedly declared that it is engaged in a war against Latifundios, the large and idle landed estates that, according to the government, prevent agricultural development and cause Venezuela to import up to 80% of its food needs from other countries. A land reform law that was passed in late 2001 and that was one of the reasons opposition leaders gave for launching the April 2002 coup, specifies that no landowner may own, depending on the land’s quality, over 100 to 3,000 hectares of idle agriculturally useful land. It was not until early 2005, though, that this provision of the land law has been applied. Up until then, the government has distributed only government-owned land to peasants.