Caracas, October 25, 2004—Last Saturday, during a visit to the barrio of Petare, one of the poor neighborhoods of Caracas, President Chavez gave out urban land titles to over 3,000 families. The transfer of land titles took place in a major open-air public event that also served as a campaign rally for the major of Sucre, the Caracas district to which the neighborhood of Petare belongs.
Over 15,000 individuals will benefit from these land titles, which are being given as part of Venezuela’s urban land reform program, in which the inhabitants of the country’s barrios may obtain title to the land they have occupied, sometimes for decades, with their self-built homes.
The Mayor of Sucre, José Vicente Rangel Avalos, the son of the vice-president, said, “With these transfers we are fulfilling decree 1,666, which regularizes the ownership of urban land and which recognizes that the land belongs to those who live on it.” Rangel Avalos also explained that over 9,000 titles had already been passed out in his municipality.
Saturday’s land transfer is part of a larger urban land reform program that is to benefit hundreds of thousands families living in Venezuela’s “barrios.” The project intends to give inhabitants security that the land they have been living on for many years now is theirs and that with these titles economic activity, such as the taking out of bank loans, would be easier.
During the event, Chavez explained that the land titles would help fight poverty. We need to leave behind us the horrendous capitalist system that has been installed here, by those who attempted to dominate the people and to throw them into poverty. This is why we are here, to put an end to this,” said Chavez.
In his recent public appearances Chavez has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the government’s land reform programs for fighting poverty. Chavez again stressed that state governors should make an all-out effort to apply the land reform law.
Chavez said that he would wage “war against the large estates (latifundios).” The landowners of such estates can choose between giving up land of over 5,000 hectares or have it take away by force by the army. He said he would prefer not to have to enter into a conflict with the land owners, but they have to obey the law. Venezuela’s land reform law, which was passed in 2001, stipulates that land of over 5,000 hectares (12,000 acres) can be turned over to the government, at market value, for redistribution.According to a land survey conducted in 1989, over 60% of the country’s land is owned by less than 1% of the country’s population.