Chavez Promises Food Sovereignty for Venezuela

During the 300th airing of his Sunday TV and Radio Program, Aló Presidente, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez focused on the problems of the country's agricultural sector, emphasizing increasing agricultural production to make Venezuela totally self-sufficient in its food supply.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez walks through a corn field with local farmers during his Sunday TV and radio program (Zurimar Campos, ABN)

Caracas, January 14, 2008 ( – During the 300th airing of his Sunday TV and Radio Program, Aló Presidente, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez focused on the problems of the country's agricultural sector. With the inauguration of a new irrigation system and the country's largest silo, Chavez emphasized increasing agricultural production to make Venezuela totally self-sufficient in its food supply.

"The day will come when Venezuela reaches total agricultural independence," promised the Venezuelan President on Sunday, during the inauguration of a new irrigation system in the central state of Guarico.

The inauguration was the opening event for Chavez' 300th airing of his TV and radio program Aló Presidente. Sunday's show was dedicated to the nation's agricultural sector, but the president also discussed a range of other topics, as usual.

The new irrigation system, which will eventually carry water to 32,000 hectares (79,000 acres), will be introduced in four phases by the year 2010. On Sunday, President Chavez inaugurated the first phase, with a length of 10 kilometers, which will irrigate an area of 4 thousand hectares (9,900 acres).

After opening the canals, the president walked through the newly irrigated fields with local farmers as he discussed the problems of the nation's agriculture, and how to increase production.

"How can we achieve true independence without water, without technology, and without the skills?" he asked.

President Chavez also spoke with a group of local fishermen who fish in the reservoir that supplies the irrigation system. He assured them that they would also receive the support they need to increase their production and a program to construct more lakes to increase fish production was discussed.

"We want the whole project; fish, equipment like boats, cooling systems, fish packing and processing, technical support and distribution facilities," he said.

Chavez emphasized that increasing the production of food would not only help the country become independent in its food supply, but would also help fight inflation by eliminating food shortages, a problem that plagued the country in 2007.

When the system is completely finished, it is expected to permit the production of more than a million tons of food annually, which would make up more than 5 percent of total national production.

The president reminded his audience that the newly inaugurated irrigation system was originally a project of previous governments, known in Venezuela as the Fourth Republic (1958-1998), but that it had not been finished, and was later completely abandoned. Chavez showed photos of the deteriorated and non-functional canals of the system before their reconstruction by his government.

This was also the case with Venezuela's largest storage silo, also inaugurated during Sunday's show. According to the explanation of the Food Minister, the silo was constructed under the governments of the Fourth Republic, but later passed to the private sector where it deteriorated to such a degree that it no longer functioned.

Food Minister Felix Osorio emphasized that the newly restored silo is now available to all the farmers in the area, with a capacity to store 225,000 tons. According to the minister, the silo is now under the control of the government food company CASA, but is managed by the local communal councils.

The increased storage capacity is expected to help the country raise its level of agricultural production.

Chavez also discussed additional projects that the government is carrying out to support agriculture, such as the installation of a tractor industry from Belarus, as well as programs to give micro-credits and land titles to small producers.

The Need for a New Geopolitical Organization

But not everything is positive for the rural agricultural areas of the country. Later in the show, representatives of the local communal councils complained about the condition of the roads in the region and the lack of action on the part of the local government to repair them.

Chavez listened as the representatives explained the problem and then as the local mayor explained why they had not been able to carry out the work to repair the roads. Chavez responded to the problems with an explanation of his plans for a "new geopolitical organization" of the country.

Chavez lamented that December's constitutional reform, which contained elements of the new geopolitical plan, was defeated by a "microscopic" difference, but insisted that he would continue forward with his proposal for a reorganization of the country to increase efficiency.

"It's about making a new system of government, because no mayor or governor has all the resources, or enough power to solve the problems in his state, or municipality," he said.

The new geopolitical system, proposed in last month's constitutional reform, would allow the president to appoint vice-presidents to different regions of the country to focus on accelerating the development of those regions, and figuring out solutions to the most pressing problems.

But since the necessary constitutional reforms were not approved in December's national referendum, President Chavez urged his cabinet to work hard to fix the problems by the traditional means, and to be more efficient.

In response to the poor road conditions in some parts of the country, President Chavez ordered all the nation's exports of asphalt to be halted.

"Why are we going to be exporting asphalt if Venezuela's roads are in bad condition?" he asked. "The biggest cities in the United States were paved with Venezuelan asphalt, the best in the world…How can it be that here we have bad roads?"

"If we don't make a profound rectification here, 100 years will go by and we'll still have bad roads. We have to put an end to this," he said.