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Food and Fear in Venezuela

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0025159/00001

Material Information

Title: Food and Fear in Venezuela
Physical Description: 1 online resource (86 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Garcia, Keli
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2010

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: Latin American Studies -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Latin American Studies thesis, M.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: 'I can not find beans, rice, coffee, or milk,' said Mirna de Campos, a 56 year-old Venezuelan (Romero 2008). These are the typical concerns of average Venezuelans ever since the country started facing food shortages in 2003 (Pearson 2007). Observers are divided on the cause of these shortages and the answer may depend on who is responding. Like everything else in Venezuela these days, this is a topic divided by political loyalties in which the government has an official response and those in the opposition attribute shortages to completely different reasons. Government officials emphasize increased consumption due to a greater purchasing power of the poorest classes and they also blame the shortages on food hoarding on the part of producers and shop owners. Those in the opposition emphasize the ill effect of government policies and an overall decline in agricultural production. The question of food sovereignty is a very complicated one and one that should not be taken lightly. Instead of trying to tackle the entire question, this study proposes to understand the problems with agricultural production in Venezuela, especially in the areas of meat and milk production. The issue of production is important, because as Venezuela's population grows, internal production will prove to be the key to the country's food sovereignty. The objective of this research is to identify the problems with production, which I hold to be caused by social and political insecurity. My fieldwork took place in Maracaibo, Venezuela. Maracaibo is the second largest city in Venezuela and it is the capital of the state of Zulia, which located on the border with Colombia. Through participant observation and interviews I gathered information on the overall situation in Venezuela. I conducted a newspaper survey focusing on issues of insecurity in the nation, political decisions affecting food production, and on the overall atmosphere created by politicians and the media. I also conducted in depth interviews with cattle ranchers in the state of Zulia. It is my conclusion that political and social insecurity have been extremely detrimental to the production of food in Venezuela. The major manifestations of these issues come in the forms of kidnapping and land expropriation, which have detracted from investments of money and time from issues of production. In extreme cases, ranchers have even abandoned food production all together for fear of losing their lives or wasting their investments.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Keli Garcia.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2010.
Local: Adviser: Deere, Carmen.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2010
System ID: UFE0025159:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0025159/00001

Material Information

Title: Food and Fear in Venezuela
Physical Description: 1 online resource (86 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Garcia, Keli
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2010

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: Latin American Studies -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Latin American Studies thesis, M.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: 'I can not find beans, rice, coffee, or milk,' said Mirna de Campos, a 56 year-old Venezuelan (Romero 2008). These are the typical concerns of average Venezuelans ever since the country started facing food shortages in 2003 (Pearson 2007). Observers are divided on the cause of these shortages and the answer may depend on who is responding. Like everything else in Venezuela these days, this is a topic divided by political loyalties in which the government has an official response and those in the opposition attribute shortages to completely different reasons. Government officials emphasize increased consumption due to a greater purchasing power of the poorest classes and they also blame the shortages on food hoarding on the part of producers and shop owners. Those in the opposition emphasize the ill effect of government policies and an overall decline in agricultural production. The question of food sovereignty is a very complicated one and one that should not be taken lightly. Instead of trying to tackle the entire question, this study proposes to understand the problems with agricultural production in Venezuela, especially in the areas of meat and milk production. The issue of production is important, because as Venezuela's population grows, internal production will prove to be the key to the country's food sovereignty. The objective of this research is to identify the problems with production, which I hold to be caused by social and political insecurity. My fieldwork took place in Maracaibo, Venezuela. Maracaibo is the second largest city in Venezuela and it is the capital of the state of Zulia, which located on the border with Colombia. Through participant observation and interviews I gathered information on the overall situation in Venezuela. I conducted a newspaper survey focusing on issues of insecurity in the nation, political decisions affecting food production, and on the overall atmosphere created by politicians and the media. I also conducted in depth interviews with cattle ranchers in the state of Zulia. It is my conclusion that political and social insecurity have been extremely detrimental to the production of food in Venezuela. The major manifestations of these issues come in the forms of kidnapping and land expropriation, which have detracted from investments of money and time from issues of production. In extreme cases, ranchers have even abandoned food production all together for fear of losing their lives or wasting their investments.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Keli Garcia.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2010.
Local: Adviser: Deere, Carmen.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2010
System ID: UFE0025159:00001


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FOOD AND FEAR IN VENEZUELA


By

KELI GARCIA



















A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2010






























2010 Keli Garcia































To my Mom and Dad









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to thank my Mom and Dad for their love and support. I would like to

thank Dina and Oswaldo Garcia for giving me a place to stay while I conducted my

research. I would also like to thank Rebecca Garcia, Oscar Garcia, and Martha Garcia

for all of their help and support while conducting my research. Finally, I would like to

thank my advisors Carmen Diana Deere, Frederick Royce, and Tim Clark for their

guidance and patience during the course of this project.









TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page

A C KN O W LED G M ENTS ............................................................ ... .................... 4

L IS T O F T A B L E S ............................................................................... 6

A B S T R A C T ................................................................................... 7

CHAPTER

1 INT R O D U C T IO N .................................. ................................ ... ............ 9

2 POLITICS: EITHER YOU ARE IN OR YOU ARE OUT...................................... 17

3 CRIM E IN VENEZUELA ........ ......... ......................... ............... 31

4 THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR OF VENEZUELA AND ZULIA.......................... 39

The Agrarian Reform of 1960 .............. ............ ....................... 39
Chavez's Agrarian Reform ....................................... ...................... ............... 42
The State of Zulia ................... .............. .... .................. ............... 44

5 PROBLEMS AFFECTING FOOD SECURITY............................................ 47

Food Hoarding ................ ......... ........ ...... ......... 48
Price Controls ................ ......... ........ ..... ......... 49
Im ports ......... ............................................. 51
The Decline in Production ..................... .... ............. 53
The Decline in Production Crime's Role........................... 55
The Decline in Production The Role of Political Insecurity .......................... 63

6 CONCLUSION ................ ......... ....... ...... ......... 73

R E FE R E N C E S .............................. ............. ....... 76

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................ ......... ................. 86









LIST OF TABLES


Table page

1-1 Venezuela's poultry and egg consumption ........ .... .............. ............. .. 16

4-1 Venezuela's dry, whole milk production............... ..................... 46

4-2 Venezuela's animal numbers, cattle production .............. ...... ........... ... 46

5-1 Venezuela's yearly food im ports (in tons) ...................................... .............. .. 71

5-2 Reports of cattle ranchers kidnapped in venezuela in 2008 and 2009 ............... 71









Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

FOOD AND FEAR IN VENEZUELA

By

Keli Garcia

August 2010

Chair: Carmen Diana Deere
Major: Latin American Studies

The purpose of this study is to identify the reasons behind Venezuela's food

scarcity. The country has faced severe food shortages, especially since 2003. My

thesis is that it is the combined effect of crime, political insecurity and governmental

policies that explain the current food shortages and Venezuela's continued dependency

on imports of foodstuffs.

The methodology employed in this study was primarily qualitative. I interviewed

cattle ranches in the state of Zulia during the summer of 2008 to assess the situation

from their perspectives. In addition, a newspaper survey was undertaken to gather

information on the incidence of crime and reactions to it. A review of secondary sources

in Venezuela was useful to analyze the complicated situation in this country.

The research shows that crime has an ill effect on Venezuela's food security.

Agricultural producers are a major target for kidnappers and in order to ensure their own

security they must invest large amounts of money in security and often neglect their

lands. Government agricultural policies both in the past and the present have also

created problems for the country's food security. One of the greatest current points of

contention is the agrarian reform. Whether or not it will be successful o is yet to be









seen. However, as with any agrarian reform, the process is bound to destabilize

production. Political differences have also pitted large agricultural producers against the

government. This has created a lot of infighting and instability that negatively affects the

ability of both the government and producer to ensure greater food production. It is this

battle among political opponents that makes the situation particularly problematic.









CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

In 2007 and early 2008 food scarcity in Venezuela was palpable. People would

wait hours in long lines if there was word of the availability of bread, milk, eggs, meat,

sugar or rice, no matter what the cost. Basic food items were almost impossible to come

by; many other items could only be found at certain stores, so people would spend

considerable time going from store to store in search of items even as mundane as

toilet paper and cat food. The worst of the food crisis has passed for many citizens,

because the government used its vast income from oil reserves to import food.

However, Venezuelan food security remains a problem, because food imports are

bought with income that is mostly dependent on oil exports which are affected by erratic

fluctuations in world oil prices. Why does Venezuela, a nation that is rich in both oil

reserves and arable land, have such difficulties providing its people with food?

Venezuela today is a very politically divided nation and the issue of food scarcity

has also become polarized. Members of the government and their supporters see the

causes of Venezuela's food insecurity quite differently than those who oppose the

government. This latter group includes many agricultural producers and business

owners.

Government officials often blame the shortages on increased consumption due to

the greater purchasing power of the poorest classes. They also frequently blame the

food deficiencies on hoarding by farmers and ranchers as well as middle men and shop

owners. The government has denied on a number of occasions that there is a problem

with food production. According to some government spokesmen, the problem is not

that less food is being produced, but rather that people's food consumption has

increased and that there are problems with distribution and speculation. Official

9









statistics show that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew 10.3% in 2005 and again grew

by a similar amount in 2006 and that during this period consumption increased by

16.3% (Marquez, 2007). Others note that government spending as a share of GDP has

increased from 19% to 30% since 1998. The aforementioned have increased the

consumption capacity of lower income Venezuelans and caused demand to outstrip the

supply of goods (Sugget, 2008). Even Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, personally

argues that while food production has not decreased in any way, it is people's food

consumption that has increased. This statement is further supported by the Venezuelan

Chamber of Commerce which reported that consumption in the country more than

doubled from U.S. $24 billion in 2004 to U.S. $52 billion in 2007. The Chamber also

claimed that the poorest 58% of the population experienced a 130% increase in its

consumption capacity (Sugget, 2008). Table 1.1 is an example of the increase in

consumption of poultry and eggs since 2000.

Another reason behind the increase in consumption has been the establishment of

Mercal stores, which are subsidized markets that sell food at prices that are 39% below

market prices (El Universal, May 4, 2006). To make up for the shortage of food, the

government has increased food imports, which has somewhat alleviated the problem,

but not solved it. Many consumer items are still difficult to find and often expensive.

The government also points to the issue of food hoarding and the illegal

transshipment of products to Colombia. In fact, Gustavo Moreno, the president of

FEDEAGRO (La Confederaci6n Nacional de Asociaciones de Productores

Agropecuarios; The National Confederation of Associations of Agricultural Producers),

has on various occasions mentioned food smuggling as one of the major problems

affecting Venezuela's food security (Hernandez, June 28, 2007). Because of









government price controls on food, many store owners withhold merchandize from the

shelves and producers stockpile inventory in hopes of getting better prices for them at a

later date or in Colombia. To combat food hoarding and contraband, the government

began an initiative, The Food Sovereignty Plan (Plan de Soberania Alimentaria). In

January 2008 alone, the government seized close to five thousand metric tons of food.

Most of the food seized was in the states of Zulia and Tachira, which border Colombia.

According to Fredy Alonso Carrion, a general in Venezuela's National Guard, most of

the food that is hoarded and subsequently smuggled tends to be rice, powdered milk,

sugar, chicken, pasta, oil, and corn flour (Nederr, 2007).

Those in opposition to the government, however, see the problem of food

scarcity differently. They contend there is in fact a decrease in agricultural output,

especially in the areas of meat and dairy production. According to CAVILAC (Camara

Venezolana de Industrias Lacteas; The Venezuelan Chamber of Dairy Industry), milk

production decreased by 13.3 between 1996 and 2006 (Guia.com.ve, 2007). Many

ranchers ask that if production has not fallen, then "why has the government had to

resort to importing over 40% of Venezuela's food?" Moreover, why have official

production figures for national meat and milk production not been released since 2007?

(Interview with Ruben Barbosa, Maracaibo, Venezuela, July 12, 2009).

According to a 2008 report from Venezuela's Central Bank (Banco Central de

Venezuela), food imports in 2008 increased by 47% from 2007. In 2007 the imports had

increased by 26% (Hernandez, 2009). FEDENAGA's (Federaci6n Nacional de

Ganaderos de Venezuela) president, Genaro, said that a decline in meat production has

been apparent since 2007. Moreover, he said that in 2008 production fell 8.6 % from the

amount that was produced in 2007 (Contreras, 2008). He explained that the cattle









slaughtered in industrial slaughter houses represents about 80% of the meat produced

in Venezuela. While in March 2006,150,000 head of cattle were sent to these slaughter

houses, in March 2008 only 76,000 heads of cattle were processed (Cadena Global,

May 22, 2008). The production of certain agricultural items may have improved in the

past couple of years, but according to FEDENAGA and FEGALAGO meat and milk

production, two of the areas of chronic shortages, have fallen by about 50 % and does

not show any signs of recovery.

According to agricultural producers, the problems with production are two-fold.

Firstly, they blame the fall in production on an increase in crime that affects them on a

personal and a professional level and secondly they note the political insecurity and

detrimental government policies. The opposition specifically criticizes government

policies such as price caps on many basic food items. Agricultural producers insist that

due to the low prices imposed by the government on certain food items, it costs more to

produce them than what producers receive, and thus they must operate at a loss.

Another symptom of this dysfunction, which the opposition claims is further hampering

food production, is the government's policy of increased food importation. The most

greatly criticized policy, by far, is the agrarian reform. The Law on Land and Agrarian

Development (Ley de Tierras y Desarrollo Agrario) was passed in November 2001 and

its main provisions include a ceiling on the amount of land any one person can own, the

taxing of unused land, and the redistribution of land to the poor. The initial ceiling on

farm size was 5,000 hectares of low quality land or 100 hectares of good quality land.

This, however, was changed in 2005, and the ceiling for good quality land is now 50

hectares. The law has been amended several times and since 2005 the government

may provide peasants with cartas agrarias, which gives peasants usufruct rights to any









land they deemed to be unproductive before the expropriation of a farm is officially

complete. That is, peasants can make use of the land and earn income from it while its

legal ownership is being decided. The main institution that is in charge of carrying out

and overseeing the land reform is the National Land Institute (INTI). It is to this

organization that peasants take their claims against land owners and receive permission

to invade lands (Ramachandran, 2006).

Although the two sides of the political debate differ on the causes, they both

seem to agree on the fact that there is indeed a problem. Agriculture has never been

given a priority in Venezuela, a country in which oil seems to run freely and costs less

than potable water. Agricultural producers and the Chavez government are both worried

about the food security of the country. Although the current government denies any

decline in food production, it obviously is very preoccupied with providing sufficient

supplies and food for the populace. The idea of food security, if not food sovereignty, is

very much at the forefront of the president's speeches and policy. Here it is important to

distinguish between the concepts of food sovereignty and food security.

Food sovereignty is a concept developed by La Via Campesina, an international

social movement that focuses on the demand for social justice for small and medium

farmers, landless workers and indigenous people. It promotes fairer economic

relationships nationally and internationally. Among their main concerns are the

preservation of natural resources, sustainable agricultural production and food

sovereignty. They define food sovereignty as:

The RIGHT of peoples, countries, and state unions to define their
agricultural and food policy without the "dumping" of agricultural
commodities into foreign countries. Food sovereignty organizes food
production and consumption according to the needs of local communities,
giving priority to production for local consumption. Food sovereignty
includes the right to protect and regulate the national agricultural and
13









livestock production and to shield the domestic market from the dumping of
agricultural surpluses and low-price imports from other countries. Landless
people, peasants, and small farmers must get access to land, water, and
seed as well as productive resources and adequate public services. Food
sovereignty and sustainability are a higher priority than trade policies (La
Via Campesina, Accessed 2009).

Although Chavez agrees on certain issues with Via Campesina, such as

opposing the use of vegetable materials for energy production, it will be shown that his

policies do not conform to all of the movement's ideals. Chavez's policies do include a

land reform and various forms of land redistribution; however, these are not the only

requirements for food sovereignty. The main shortfall is that the government of Chavez

does not protect Venezuela's agricultural production, and imports massive amounts of

food, to the detriment of many agricultural producers. However, it can be argued that

the importation of food is the government's policy to assure food security, if we define

food security as the availability of food for all Venezuelans.

In this thesis I will argue that Venezuela's problem with food availability is caused

by many different factors, some of which are historical. The problems that both sides

claim are causing food scarcity, including crime, lower production, increased

consumption and widespread profiteering, are all contributing to this problem. The

crisis, however, is intensified by the conflict between the two opposing sides, the

Chavez government and the agricultural producers, especially the cattle ranchers. The

two sides fail to recognize the legitimacy of the other and are generally unwilling to work

together; making the crisis in food production and availability a political football, instead

of a problem that affects the nation as a whole and needs to be solved cooperatively.

The thesis is divided into six chapters. Chapter 2 presents an overview of

Venezuela's political history. In it I describe Venezuela's political divisiveness, Chavez's

rise and how politics may affect Venezuela's food Productions today. In Chapter 3 I

14









describe Venezuela's ubiquitous issues with crime, which affect, among other things,

ranchers' ability to supply cattle and meat and people's faith in the Venezuelan

government. In Chapter 4 I provide background on Venezuela's agricultural history.

Agricultural development has long been neglected in the country, and many of the

issues affecting food availability today have been caused, or at least fueled, by that

neglect. In this chapter I also provide some background on the State of Zulia, where I

carried out my field research. This state was chosen because it is one of the country's

major areas of agricultural production, it contains a strong cattle ranchers' lobby that is

very much at odds with the national government, and it is located on the border with

Colombia. Sharing a border with Colombia makes the state even more vulnerable to

crime, especially in the form of kidnapping, and its location gives rise to illicit cross

border activity. Chapter 5 presents an analysis of the main issues affecting food

availability and Chapter 6 contains my concluding remarks.

This thesis is based on a review of secondary sources in Venezuela, a

newspaper survey and formal interviews with cattle ranchers in the State of Zulia,

Venezuela. The aim of the newspaper research was to compile data on crime and

kidnapping, as well as on government confiscation of property. I relied mainly on four

newspapers, two national ones based out of Caracas, El Nacional and El Universal, and

two from the state of Zulia, Panorama and La Verdad. The interviews with cattle

ranchers were obtained through a snowball sample. That is to say, I asked my initial

interviewees to provide me with contacts to other cattle ranchers who would be willing to

be interviewed. I obtained eleven formal interviews. All of the names of those

interviewed have been changed for their safety and the safety of their families.









Table 1-1. Venezuela's poultry and egg consumption
(Kilograms/Number per Capita)
Year Poultry Meat Eggs

2000 24.20 98.50
2001 27.10 111.04
2002 30.32 130.98
2003 23.46 116.13
2004 29.00 112.00
2005 31.00 130.00
2006 33.00 133.00
2007 34.00 140.00
2008* 34.50 142.00
Source: FENAVI
Note: Estimates Denoted by*









CHAPTER 2
POLITICS: EITHER YOU ARE IN OR YOU ARE OUT

Today, Venezuela is an incredibly divided nation. The political fault lines are

extremely deep and volatile. Since the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998, Venezuela's

landscape has been marked by angry demonstrations by those in the political

opposition. Those who are pro-Chavez and those who are against him have formed two

camps in which the members of each express complete hatred for the other. Venezuela

has been divided among political and class lines throughout its history, but these

divisions did not produce the open hatred that is evidenced today. The lines divide

those who have access to the government, and the economic benefits and opportunities

that accompany that access, and those who do not.

In this chapter I provide some background on the political system of Venezuela. I

hope to show how politics and social inclusion and exclusion have worked historically in

the country and how they have changed since the emergence of Hugo Chavez. It is

important to understand these aspects of Venezuela, because those who have

controlled or had influence in the government have been the primary ones to benefit

socially and economically. When Hugo Chavez took over, he upset the established

order and subsequently those who previously had influence lost it. Cattle ranchers form

part of this group of people who lost influence and power and they now see themselves

as a group that is marginalized by the government.

The political parties that would come to dominate the Venezuelan political

landscape for more than a half a century were created in the 1940s. The Comite de

Organizaci6n Politica Electoral Independiente: Partido Social Cristiano (COPEI:

Committee of Independent Electoral Political Organization:Social Christian Party) and

Acci6n Democratica (AD: Democratic Action) were the two most important. COPEI was

17









a Christian democratic party founded in 1946 with its strongest base in the Andean

states of Tachira, Merida and Trujillo where the church was strongest. AD was founded

in 1941 and claimed to represent the workers and the peasants (McCoy and Meyers,

2004). The Partido Comunista de Venezuela (PCV: Venezuelan Communist Party) and

Uni6n Republicana Democratica (URD: Democratic Republican Union) were two other

important parties that were formed at this time. During this period parties were not

institutionalized and all of the parties, with the exception of the PCV, came to mirror

each other. They had similar platforms and worked in such similar ways that people had

a difficult time distinguishing between them (McCoy and Myers, 2004).

On January 23, 1958, Marcos Perez Jimenez, president of Venezuela since

1952, was ousted by a movement that encompassed the major political parties, student

movements, unions, the Catholic Church, the private sector and a major portion of the

armed forces. Fears of another military dictatorship encouraged the formation of a pact

between the major political forces in the country. In October 1958 an accord was

reached and signed between AD, COPEI and URD. The pact, which became known as

el Pacto de Punto Fijo (The Punto Fijo Pact) since it was signed at Rafael Caldera's

home "Punto Fijo," came to stabilize Venezuelan politics for the next forty years. In the

pact the political parties agreed to defend the constitution and respect the right to

govern by whichever party won the elections and they further agreed to oppose the use

of force to remove the winning party. Another aspect of the agreement was that all

parties would work together and no party would have complete control over the

executive (McCoy and Myers, 2004).









Following the signing of the aforementioned document, Romulo Betancourt of AD

was elected president in 1958. By 1960 URD had abandoned the coalition, which gave

way to the two-party system that would characterize party politics in Venezuela until

1993.

What is the importance of a political party for democracy? One of the most

important aspects of democracy is that ordinary citizens are given a voice in the election

of the government. In many contemporary democracies this voice, this representation,

is achieved through channels that lead directly to the government. The main conduits

are usually the political parties, which are the principal agents of representation. They

achieve this by developing platforms, organizing around those platforms and promoting

the election of individuals to the government (Hagopian, 1998). The party system itself

is not only an indicator of the health of a democracy, but it also is a factor that

influences the strength of a democracy. During the 1990s Venezuela experienced what

many have come to call a collapse of the party system.

For numerous years Venezuela was held as an example of a democratic success

story because of its "pacted democracy." However, the 1980s and 1990s began to see

the decay of this system, as people's support for and trust in the parties began to fall. In

1988 Carlos Andres Perez was re-elected to office, riding on the wave of success and

popularity from his previous presidency. In early 1989, however, Perez did an about

face and announced many neoliberal policies and reforms. When Perez came to power,

he encountered a huge economic crisis and he had to seek financial assistance from

the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which then required Perez to implement

austerity measures as a condition for financial assistance. Support of AD fell as protests

and three days of riots in the largest cities of Venezuela, which became known as the









Caracazo, rattled the nation (Dietz and Myers, 2007). Perez's party, which historically

had held a center-left ideological position, had made a major change which its

supporters had not expected (Morgan, 2007). As calm was instituted again in the nation,

many observers believed that political and social normalcy had returned. Ten months

later, during regional and local elections, most voters continued to support AD and

COPEI candidates. However, that same year in the industrial state of Bolivar the leftist

party Causa R won the governorship. On a national level, the rate of voter abstention

reached almost 55%. Both were indicators that all was not well in the political landscape

(Dietz and Myers, 2007).

On February 4, 1992 an attempted presidential coup shocked the nation. The

attempt was led by Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chavez, who was angered by the

corruption characterizing the Venezuelan government and its neoliberal economic

policies. Although unsuccessful, the attempted coup was a reflection of the tensions

within the nation and it foreshadowed things to come (Dietz and Myers, 2007).

On November 27 of that same year a second unsuccessful coup, led by air force

and naval units, fatally weakened the government of Perez, who was impeached the

following May. As the support for AD continued to decline, neither the old left nor COPEI

were able to bring disappointed Adecos (AD Supporters) into their ranks. In the late

1980s the old left began to decay and in the 1990s the influence of COPEI also

declined. This was accelerated when Rafael Caldera abandoned his party and won re-

election in 1993 as an independent (Morgan, 2007). His decision to seek the presidency

independently of COPEI split the party, reinforcing previous internal struggles and

tarnishing the group's image among most Venezuelans (Dietz and Myers, 2007). During

his presidency he constantly tried to undermine the party he had helped to create in the









1940s. The fighting amongst and within the various parties and a banking crisis that

eliminated almost 60% of total national bank deposits undermined the already tenuous

confidence that Venezuelans had in the party system (Dietz and Myers, 2007).

The decline of both parties was so swift that by 2003 fewer than 15% of citizens

identified with either party (Morgan, 2007). The first hit to the political system came in

the legislative elections of 1998, when COPEI and AD combined received only 37% of

the votes. In December of that year, Hugo Chavez was elected president signaling the

collapse of the traditional party system (Morgan, 2007).

There are various factors that sealed the fate of the two major political parties in

Venezuela. Their shifting ideology left many Venezuelans discouraged and lacking trust

in the party system. Both the traditionally center-left AD and the politically moderate

COPEI began to champion a neoliberal approach, thus moving to the right of average

Venezuelans. At that point, both parties lacked any meaningful distinction between

each other (Morgan, 2007).

Another problem facing the two political parties was a lack of ties between

themselves and major sectors of the population. The traditional bases of the two parties

were labor unions and professional associations. Members of these sectors, the most

organized sectors of the population, were the only ones with an effective voice in

government (Morgan, 2007). However, in the 1990s it was the informal sector and

unemployed sectors of the population that began to grow as the economy weakened.

The political parties were either unable or unwilling to incorporate these growing sectors

of society. Venezuela, along with Peru, was one of the only countries in the region that

did not make any progress in alleviating poverty during the 1990s. In fact, absolute

poverty grew (Planas, 2007). Poverty is concentrated in the population centers of









Venezuela, due to the rapid urbanization that occurred beginning in the 1960s. In 1990

more than half of the residents of Caracas were classified as impoverished. In other

urban centers more than 70% of the population was considered to be impoverished

(McCoy and Meyers, 2004).Most of the urban poor live in shantytowns on the outskirts

of the cities and these neighborhoods are characterized by a lack of services and

infrastructure, high levels of crime and a lack of political representation.

As has been pointed out by scholars, political participation increases with income

and education. Thus the political participation of the poor in Venezuela was a lot lower

than for other sectors of society, and they were not considered to be important in

elections by the political parties (McCoy and Myers, 2004). Another factor that put the

poor at a disadvantage was that they tended to support third parties of the left that were

not part of the Punto Fijo Pact (Ibid). Another group that was traditionally excluded from

political parties was women, who did not have a place in the traditionally male-run

political system (Morgan, 2007).

Thus it was increasing distrust of political parties, a lack of distinction between

the dominant parties and a lack of incorporation of growing segments of society that

encouraged people to abandon the old parties. Frustration with the choices available

drove people to look for representation elsewhere. It is into this vacuum that Chavez

steps in. Because of the collapse of the old system an outsider is given a chance.

The election of Chavez, along with the election of other progressive leaders

elsewhere like Bolivia's Evo Morales, is seen as part of a rise of a populist movement in

Latin America. Roque Daniel Planas defines populist leaders as "... highly personalistic

leaders who espouse anti-establishment rhetoric and come to power with loose or no

party support, preferring to appeal directly to the voters at the emotional, rather than the









programmatic, level (Planas, 2007)." Planas (2007) contends that the election of these

leaders represents a rejection of the old parties, due to their unwillingness to undertake

socioeconomic changes, and a rejection of neoliberal reforms.

One of Chavez's first moves after becoming president was proposing, and having

the electorate approve, a constituent assembly. The 1999 constitution created a highly

centralized state and a very strong national executive, thus replacing the representative,

decentralized government in which the president had to share power with congress and

the judiciary (McCoy and Myers, 2004). In 1999 Chavez was re-elected to a six-year

term and from that point on his party gained many successes in the National Assembly

and in state and local elections (Ibid). Chavez's party, the MVR (Movimiento V [Quinta]

Republica; Fifth Republic Movement), was created shortly after Chavez was pardoned

by Rafael Caldera for his attempted coup in 1992. The party was a left-wing, socialist

party that was dissolved in 2006 in order for Chavez to unite all the parties that

supported him into the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Encyclopedia Britannica,

2010).

Venezuela's pacted democracy has been criticized as being a closed and corrupt

system. The Pacto de Punto Fijo allowed for the alliance of two parties that could keep

the power and the spoils of Venezuela to themselves. Others, however, claim that

puntofijismo allowed for a stable democracy to exist in the nation for more than 40

years. Although there are those who hail Venezuela's democracy as exemplary, there is

no denying that large portions of the population were underrepresented.

The nation has faced years of inequality with a Gini coefficient that has stayed

between .40 and .50 since the 1970s (Rodriguez, 2000). Poverty levels have been

extremely high, especially since the collapse of the economy. In 1993 the poorest fifth of









the population shared a mere 5.5% of the total national income and 2.7% of the

population was living on less than (U.S.D) $1 a day. In time these numbers have only

grown worse. In 2003 the bottom fifth of the population shared 3.3% of the total national

income and 18.5% of the population was living on less than $1 per day (WHO, 2008).

During the Punto Fijo years Venezuela's anti-poverty policies followed the cycle

of the boom and bust in the economy. Beginning in the 1960s and 1970s many policies

were implemented to help the lower classes. These policies included provisions for free

public education, free healthcare, and there was even a land reform put into place.

However, with the downshift in the economy in the 1970s, many of these policies were

either abandoned or were by necessity diverted to the middle class, which grew poorer

during the economy's bust (Wilpert, 2003).

Since the election of Chavez political participation and inclusion has changed

dramatically in the nation. Citizens are being incorporated and the representation of the

masses is becoming more institutionalized through the parties created by Chavez

(Planas, 2007). Inclusion has been an important factor in Chavez's appeal, but poverty

alleviation has been the major item on his platform that the masses have responded to.

Chavez's strategies for poverty alleviation have come in the form of plans and misiones

that have sprung up across the country. The first of these was Plan Bolivar 2000 in

which the government repaired churches, hospitals, clinics, homes and parks. The

government also created various subsidized food markets and vaccinated thousands of

children. Most of the elements of Plan Bolivar were carried out by the military and

government officials who did not have an organized approach. As problems became

evident around the country, the administrators tried to find solutions haphazardly with no

determined plan of action (Wilpert, 2003).









The misiones are a set group of organizations aimed at alleviating various

problems within the nation. Mission Robinson, Mision Ribas and Mission Sucre are

aimed at primary, secondary, and higher education, respectively. The programs are

aimed at expanding literacy rates and improving the quality of education. Many students

are also given scholarships to attend universities and for many, once their studies are

completed, the state-owned oil company (PDVSA: Petroleos de Venezuela S.A.;

Petroleum of Venezuela) and the electric company (CADAFE: Compaiia An6nima de

Administraci6n y Fomento Electrico; Anonimos Company of Electrical Administration

and Promotion) will place them in the mining, oil or energy sectors. Other misiones

include Mision Barrio Adentro, which provides healthcare; Mision Mercal, which is about

the formation of government-subsidized food stores; and Mision Zamora, which is

directed at land redistribution (Wilpert, 2003)

These misiones have served millions of Venezuelans and have become very

popular among the poor. However, they have been greatly criticized by those who say

that the programs are poorly managed, lack transparency and are prone to corruption.

Others criticize the closed nature of these programs, claiming that only those who are

Chavistas, or supporters of the government, may benefit from them. A great number of

people that had been included by previous governments are now feeling shut out

(Wilpert, 2003).

As the Chavez government strives for the inclusion of those who were always on

the fringes of government and of society, it also acts to exclude those sectors of society

who have benefited in the past. Much of Chavez's rhetoric emphasizes the battle of the

rich against the poor and the poor against the rich, a "social war" (Vasquez, 2009). and

condemns those who are not in support of his government. The president's animosity









towards the "escualidos" (meaning weak, a name Chavez has given to those who

oppose his government) is by no means hidden.

The opposition, which has failed to unify into a strong political movement,

consists of various groups that have been marginalized or feel their interests are

threatened by the government. One of the most outspoken sectors of the opposition is

the media. Many television channels, radio stations and newspapers directly oppose the

government and use any opportunity to mobilize or speak out against it. The Chavez

government has tried to counter this factor with the creation of government TV stations

and programs that support the government. One such program is A16 Presidente, on

which Chavez speaks to all Venezuelans and often announces governmental decisions,

including the firing of public officials. Another way in which he has tried to counter the

media was with the closing of RCTV, a station that was openly against him and his

policies (Forero, 2007)

Other major sectors that have been in opposition to the government have been

the business and the agricultural sectors. Before the government took over PDVSA, the

oil company led a general strike against the government in 2002. The strike was called

in order to protest the appointment of a new board of directors who were seen as

cronies of the president. The strike was joined by another group of the opposition,

FEDECAMARAS (Federaci6n de Camaras y Asociaciones de Comercio y Producci6n

de Venezuela; The Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce), Venezuela's

largest business association (BBC News, April 9, 2002). Various other business

organizations and agricultural producers are part of the opposition, including

FEDENAGA and FEDELAGO. These latter are associations of cattle producers who

oppose the government's policy of property seizures for the land reform program, its









price caps on food items and its lack of action against increased crime. They contend

these are the major problems facing agricultural production in Venezuela and that the

government behaves irresponsibly by not addressing these issues.

The opposition has tried to fight the government through both democratic and

undemocratic means. On April 11, 2002 there was an attempted coup against the

president in which he was illegally detained. The Supreme Court and the National

Assembly had been dissolved and the 1999 constitution was declared null and void.

Pedro Carmona, the president of FEDECAMARAS, was made interim president. A pro-

Chavez uprising soon developed in the streets and key sectors of the military, and even

various members of the opposition refused to back the Carona government. The

attempt only lasted 47 hours and pro-Chavez segments of the military retook the

Miraflores presidential palace without firing a shot and re-installed Chavez as president.

The attempted coup was publicly condemned by many Latin American nations and

international organizations as undemocratic and illegal (BBC News, April 12, 2002; BBC

News, April 13, 2002).

In 2003 the opposition tried a new approach to remove Chavez from the

government. That year StOmate (Join Up), a civilian voter rights organization aligned

with the opposition, began collecting the signatures needed to activate the presidential

recall provision in the 1999 Constitution. In August 2003 the organization presented 3.2

million signatures to the National Electoral Council (CNE), but these were rejected. The

CNE said that many of the signatures were collected before the mid-point of Chavez's

presidential term. The opposition protested against this, and they along, with

international media organizations, began to claim that the government was punishing

those who signed the petition. At the same time, pro-Chavez citizens claimed that they









were coerced by their employers to sign the recall petition (Miller, 2003). The issue

remains a point of controversy among Venezuelans and international observers alike.

The opposition, therefore, began to collect a new set of signatures in November

2003. They collected 3.6 million signatures in the span of four days. Riots erupted

nationwide as Chavez claimed that fraud had taken place on the part of signature

collectors. In addition, a member of the Venezuelan National Assembly representing the

MVR (Chavez's party), Luis Tasc6n, released the names and identification numbers of

all those who signed the petition (El Universal, April 21, 2005).

The CNE, however, announced a recall referendum on June 8, 2004.

Mobilization on the part of both camps began in earnest. The vote was held on August

15 of that year with a record number of voters. The recall was defeated with 59% of

voters saying 'no' (BBC News, August 16, 2004). The opposition claimed fraud, and

they were supported by critics such as economists Ricardo Hausmann of Harvard and

Roberto Rigobon of MIT. They said the results were false, because there were trails of

fraud in the statistical record and they (along with many Venezuelans) claimed that the

electronic voting machines could be easily tampered with (Hausman and Rigobon,

Accessed 2010).

However, the election was overseen by the Carter Center and the Organization

of American States, and both concluded that the elections were fair and open. The

European Union observers did not attend, claiming that the Chavez government had

placed too many restrictions on their participation (De Cordoba and David, 2004).

Since then, the opposition has continued to struggle against Chavez's

government. In 2007 Chavez put to a vote a new constitutional reform that would extend

his constitutional powers and allow a president to run for re-election indefinitely. Other









changes proposed in the amendment included shortening the work day, creating a

social security fund for informal laborers and promoting communal councils in which

residents would decide on government spending. The opposition turned out in droves

to oppose the referendum and won 51% to 49%, having their first victory against the

president since he won the 1998 elections (Romero, 2007).

The struggles continue between the Chavez government and the opposition.

Political differences have escalated into heated animosity and hate. Venezuelans who

were marginalized in the old system are being empowered and finally included.

However, this is being done at the expense of other Venezuelan citizens, many who are

leaving the country, trying to escape what they believe is a dangerous and hopeless

situation. Property and land rights are not guaranteed to those who possess them.

Crime is also increasing at an alarming rate. Critics of Chavez also point to his

aggressive and violent rhetoric and his disregard for human rights and freedom of

expression. One of the main international critics is Human Rights Watch. In a report

titled "A Decade Under Chavez," the organization described how the Chavez

government has encouraged and even engaged in discrimination against political

dissidents. In the article they point out how government officials fired and blacklisted

government workers, including those from the oil company (PDVSA). In addition,

citizens have reportedly been denied access to social programs if they are not aligned

with the government. The government has been openly discriminatory against the

media exemplified by the closing of Radio Caracas Television, a channel utilized by the

opposition, in 2007 (Human Rights Watch, 2009). The government also has undermined

civil society and labor unions, which seem to go against the basic ideals of socialism

(Ibid).









Venezuela's political system has long been characterized by exclusion and

inequality. Although the country's democracy was once considered the best example of

a stable democracy in Latin America, the problems of poverty and exclusion that the

system ignored caused the whole system to come crashing down. This opened a way

for the rise of Hugo Chavez. He was elected on a platform that promised to alleviate

poverty and be inclusive for all sectors of Venezuelan society. However, what has

happened is a reversal of roles. While the government is doing much to improve the

lives of the poor and marginalized, it also is trying hard to exclude and marginalize

groups that had previously had power. While the former group has much to gain and

has great hopes in the plans of the government, the latter group has much to lose and is

extremely fearful when contemplating their future.









CHAPTER 3
CRIME IN VENEZUELA

Welcome to the Bolivarian Venezuela of 2008, a 21st century socialist state
where someone is kidnapped every 24 hours, someone is murdered every
60 minutes, and armed robbery or carjacking happens every 10 minutes,
according to official Interior and Justice Ministry statistics (Caracas Gringo,
2008).

Latin America has long been regarded as one of the most violent regions in the

world. According to the World Health Organization deaths due to violence in Latin

America are 30% higher than they are in the former Communist Bloc, 200% higher than

they are in North America and the Pacific and 450% higher than they are in Western

Europe (WHO, 2002; Soares and Naritomi, 2007). In 2006 the homicide rate for Latin

America was 30 per 100,000 people (Ibid). The high rates of crime reported for Latin

America, however, hide the considerable amount of heterogeneity that can be found in

the region. While some nations such as Chile and Costa Rica have a stable or

decreasing trend of crime rates, other nations such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and

Venezuela have rising trends in crime rates (Ibid).

In Venezuela crime has steadily increased since the mid-1990s. In 1960 the

homicide rate was 10.88 out of 100,000 people and it rose slowly to 12.5 out of 100,000

by 1990. By 1995, however, it jumped to 20.7 and in 2003 the homicide rate nearly

doubled to 42.1 (Crespo, 2006). In 2008, Venezuela surpassed Colombia as the murder

capital for the western hemisphere (O'Neil, 2009). According to Foreign Policy

Magazine the murder rate in Venezuela has soared by 67% since President Hugo

Chavez was elected in 1998, earning Caracas the title as the murder capital of the world

(Foreign Policy Magazine, May 2008). According to a report of the CICPC (Cuerpo de

Investigaciones Cientificas, Penales y Criminalisticas; Body of Scientific, Penal, and

Criminological Investigations.) there have been 101,141 homicides registered in the

31









past ten years (El Heraldo, November 1, 2009). The general knowledge of these

numbers increases the fear felt by average Venezuelans throughout the country.

In fact, Venezuela has become so dangerous that it is constantly compared to

Colombia, a nation that has long been regarded as one of the most violent in the world.

In 2005 an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) survey revealed that 3.4% of adults

in Caracas "said that a relative or they themselves had been kidnapped, while in Cali,

one of the most dangerous cities in Colombia, this figure was only 1.4 per cent"

(Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, 2002). In 2008 Medellin, Colombia had a

rate of 30 murders per 100,000 but Caracas has 130 homicides per 100,000 residents.

In Venezuela most crimes involve drugs, domestic violence, homicides, personal

injuries, property crimes, smuggling, cattle rustling and kidnapping (Overseas Security

and Advisory Council, 2008). Many of the crimes entail cross-border issues with

Colombia. Most are violent crimes, committed by more than one person, and they

involve the use of firearms. In fact, a special report written by the United Nations

Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2005 ranked the country

as number one in the world in deaths caused by firearms (22.15 per 100,000 people)

(Ibid.) Kidnappings have increased exponentially, especially in the western part of the

country that borders Colombia. In 1998 there were 50 registered kidnapping. In

contrast, in 2007 there were 382 registered kidnapping (McDermott, 2008).

The State of Zulia, which is the focus of this research, is one of the areas that is

most distressed by crime. Because of its nearness to Colombia, it is greatly affected by

the guerrilla war and associated kidnapping by both Colombian and Venezuelan

rebels. The state, especially its urban centers, is also replete with organized crime and,

therefore, instances of violence are high. In 2009 the CICPC registered 1,528 homicides









for the year in the state of Zulia alone; 916 of those homicides took place in the state

capital of Maracaibo. According to many observers these numbers demonstrate that

Maracaibo is one of the most dangerous cities in Latin America (Bastidas, 2010).

By November of 2009 the regional authorities declared the state to be one of the

most dangerous in Latin America saying that homicides had increased by 45% since

2008. According to the CICPC most of the crimes were violent in nature and involved

the use of firearms (Riera, 2009). Many of the crimes were due to gang violence,

however, according to the chief of the CICPC, Cesar G6mez, in Maracaibo many tend

to be violent out in the streets and violent with their families. Some of the crimes were

crimes of passion and violence between family members as well (Bastidas, 2010).

The factors that have led to an increase in crime in many countries in Latin

America are similar. These include a great degree of social inequality, civil wars and

armed conflict, low and/or negative rates of economic growth, unemployment, drugs

and arms trafficking, organized crime, low effectiveness of the police and the criminal

justice system, the age structure of the population and a culture of violence. This culture

is promoted by the media, the police, private security forces and in some cases even

the government.

Civil wars and conflicts around the world bring with them increasing amounts of

violence and criminality. Although Venezuela itself is not experiencing a civil war, the

conflict between the government and the guerrillas in Colombia has spilled over across

the border. The FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia; the

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the ELN (Ejercito de Liberaci6n

Nacional; The National Liberation Army) are two guerrilla groups that have used

violence, crime and kidnapping to pressure the Colombian government for political









concessions (BBC News, December 23, 2009). In the past few years, under the

leadership of Colombia's president, Alvaro Uribe, the Colombian military has been

successful in pushing the guerrillas farther from the major population centers of

Colombia. That, along with a decrease in their access to the drug trade, has forced the

rebels to operate from bases in Venezuela and Ecuador where they are involved with

extortions and kidnapping in order to finance their operations (Farrel, 2008).

The quality of governance, which includes the functioning of the police and

justice systems, has been shown to affect the degree of violence in a country.

Fajnzylber, Lederman and Loayza (1998) found that arrest rates for homicides had a

significant negative effect on the homicide rate. Sanjuan (1998) suggested that a sense

that justice depended on socio-economic class was an important factor in the

emergence of a culture of violence among marginalized youths in Caracas, Venezuela.

In terms of governance, social protection by the state is also an important factor for the

level of violence in a nation. A study by Pampel and Gardner (1995) concluded that

strong national institutions for social protection had a negative effect on homicide rates.

Another study by Messner and Rosenfeld (1997) examined the efforts of various

governments to shield vulnerable populations from market forces. They concluded that

higher welfare expenditures were associated with decreased homicide.

The age structure of a population seems to coincide with the degree of criminality

as well. Countries with younger populations seem to have a higher degree of criminality

than nations with older populations. Youths also seem to be the most affected by

violence in many nations. According to the 2002 World Report on Violence and Health,

Latin America has the highest number of youth homicides with a rate of 12 or more

homicides per 100,000 people (World Health Organization, 2002).









According to various studies, including the 2002 WHO World Report, a "culture of

violence" seems to be growing and becoming consolidated in many areas of the world.

The report points to various studies that link the introduction of television to increased

forms of violence (World Health Organization, 2002). Another study that supports a

culture of violence theory is by Bedoya Marin and Jaramillo Martinez (1991) that

describes how low-income youth in the barrios of Medellin, Colombia, are influenced by

a culture of violence in the society at large and in their communities in particular.

According to the authors there seems to be a growing acceptance of "easy-money" and

its acquisition, which usually comes from involvement in the drug trade. These same

facts are evident in Venezuela, where news reports and other media are replete with

graphic and violent images. Moreover, the government contributes to this mind set by

encouraging a war between classes. In a speech given late June 2009 Chavez stated

that there was a "social war" in Venezuela and that he was on the side of the poor and

that he would have nothing to do with the rich. He also advised the middle class to pick

sides and said he hoped they would pick they would pick the side of the people (El

Universal, July 1, 2009).

These factors are intensified by a climate of political animosity in which

government supporters and opposition groups are extremely divided and antagonistic.

According to the government, it is doing everything in its power to combat crime and it

attributes increased crime rates to a sick and materialistic society. Meanwhile, those in

the opposition blame Chavez and his government for allowing criminal activity to exist

with impunity.

According to various surveys and studies, crime and crime victimization rank

among one of the most important concerns for Latin Americans. In Venezuela, it ranks









as the number one concern of citizens (Soares and Naritomi, 2007). The Observatorio

Venezolano de Violencia performed a study in February 2007 on interpersonal violence

and citizen perceptions of insecurity. It was a survey of people 17 years of age and

older who lived in urban centers throughout Venezuela. In the study they found that

residents in four out of every 10 homes surveyed were victims of a crime in 2006.

Homicides occurred the most on the weekends and twice as often they happened at

night as opposed to during the day. Most of the homicides were carried out by people

acting in groups (generally three or more individuals). Interestingly enough, three out of

every four acts of violence were carried out by people unknown to the victim. Violent

robberies occurred 11 times more often than homicides did. Six out of every ten victims

did not report crimes other than homicides. 59% of respondents said they did not go to

the authorities because they believed that nothing would be done about the crime and

16 % of respondents said they did not go to the authorities for fear of reprisals.

Who is affected by crime and violence in Venezuela? The short answer is

everyone. Both rich and poor live in fear of victimization every day. A 35-year-old

domestic worker and mother of seven living in a barrio in the outskirts of Maracaibo,

describes life in her barrio as "a place of constant fear. You have to watch everyone

around you and watch where you are going. I go home on the bus and have to be

careful because they can rob me on the bus! I am poor and I don't have a lot, but they

will still put a gun or a knife in my face to take whatever I have. When it's dark, you have

to lock yourself in the house. It's too dangerous (Interview with Laura, Maracaibo,

Venezuela, June 20, 2008)."

Once outside of the slums, however, it does not get much better. Being out on the

streets, even during the day, can be dangerous. Jean Carlo Altamira, an 18-year-old









college student and resident of Maracaibo, had his car stolen in May 2008. He went out

with three friends to pick up some books from another friend's house at 1 P.M. He

stopped his car in front of his friend's house to ring the intercom, when three armed

youths came up to him and his friends who remained in the car. They took Jean Carlo's

car, all of their wallets, phones, watches and even their shoes. "I was lucky," Jean Carlo

says, "they could have shot me or kidnapped me. At least they just took my things and

left (Interview with Jean Carlo Altamira, Maracaibo, Venezuela, June 25, 2008)."

Many stories, however, do not end as fortunately. Countless numbers of people

have been kidnapped or killed in such situations. Such is the story of Ivan Antonio

Rosario Andrade, a 21 year old who was murdered at gunpoint as he arrived home in

the company of his mother (Palmar, 2010). According to both scholars and people living

in situations of high risk the costs, both physical and emotional, of crime are extremely

high. Perceptions of crime affect people's personal and productive lives. Not only are

countries deemed as dangerous less likely to receive foreign investment, but nationals

are less likely to invest within the country and planning horizons are much lower. There

is a loss of human capital because of deaths, incapacitation due to violence, and

incarceration. Material costs for increased security, replacement of destroyed or stolen

properties, and expenditures on criminal justice and crime prevention are all high. Some

studies attribute direct costs and expenditures on criminal justice and crime prevention

as being around 3.6% of Gross Domestic Product for Latin America as compared to

around 2.1% of the GDP per year for the United States (Londono and Guerrero, 1999).

A 1992 study in the United States estimated the direct and indirect costs of

gunshot wounds to be U.S. $126 billion and an additional estimated U.S. $51 billion for

cutting or stab wounds (World Health Organization, 2002). These costs are at times









difficult to ascertain, especially in developing nations. However, these figures are useful

in giving a general idea of how much crime can actually cost a nation. A 1996-97 study

sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank on the economic impact of

violence in Latin American countries showed that health expenditures related to crime

were 1.9% of GDP in Brazil, 5.0% in Colombia, 4.5% in El Salvador, 1.3% in Mexico,

and 0.3% in Venezuela. Since that year, however, the homicide rate in Venezuela has

nearly doubled.

What kind of economic impact does crime have in Venezuela today? Overall, that

is a difficult and multifaceted question to answer. However, we can narrow the scope of

the question a little more, and try to answer how crime may affect one sector of society

in particular. For agricultural producers in general, and the cattle ranchers I interviewed

in particular, crime has had a devastating impact on food production, an issue that we

will look at further in Chapter 5.









CHAPTER 4
THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR OF VENEZUELA AND ZULIA

Venezuela's agricultural sector since the colonial period has been characterized

by an unequal distribution of land. Once Venezuela gained its independence from

Spain, a pattern of high land concentration continued and was exacerbated as various

military leaders, such as Juan Vicente G6mez (1908-1935), distributed land among their

supporters and amassed huge properties for themselves (Wilpert, 2005).

During the G6mez dictatorship a major shift took place in Venezuela. Oil was

discovered and became the country's largest export, relegating agriculture to the

background. By the end of G6mez's rule, agriculture only accounted for 20 % of GDP,

but it still employed about 60% of the workforce. During this period land tenure was still

highly concentrated. In 1937, 4.8% of land owners owned 88.8% of all the land while the

57.7% consisting of small land owners occupied 7% of the land (Wilpert, 2005).

From the 1930s on oil came to have such a prominent role in the national

economy that it caused the phenomenon known as Dutch Disease, which fuels inflation

by increasing people's purchasing power and making imports cheaper than domestic

products (Wilpert, 2005). Due to the oil boom and the decline of agriculture, people

moved to the cities in large numbers looking for jobs. The rate of urbanization was

greater than the cities could accommodate, causing the growth of large slums like the

ones that still remain on the outskirts of Caracas. By the 1960s only 35% of the

population was living in rural areas and by 1990 that figure had decreased to 12%

(Wilpert, 2005).

The Agrarian Reform of 1960

In 1960, shortly after the introduction of a liberal democracy, the president,

Romulo Betancourt, Approved the Agrarian Reform Law of 1960, setting up the National

39









Agrarian Institute. The basic premise of the law was that property should serve a social

function (arts. 2, 3, 19-23). Under the law, any land holding that was not completely

serving its social functions could be subject to expropriation and redistribution. This law

applied to both public and private holdings (Eder, 1960).

For land to be exempt from expropriation it had to be directly cultivated by the

owner who had to abide by conservation and labor laws. Idle lands and those cultivated

by non-owners (sharecroppers, tenant farmers, etc.) were subject to extremely high

taxation. Holdings also were limited to 150 hectares for good quality land or 5,000

hectares of low quality land. The law also included, but did not fully describe the

implementation of legislation in other areas needed for a true agricultural reform

including incentives for efficient utilization, education, schools, roads, warehouses,

marketing facilities, housing, irrigation and drainage systems, etc. The law also

incorporated regulations on the appropriation and use of water (Eder, 1960).

The National Agrarian Institute was in charge of making sure that farmers were in

compliance with the law. If adjustments were not made on the part of the owner,

expropriation proceedings would be instituted in the court system. Expropriated lands

were paid for partly in cash (up to 100,000 bolivars- U.S.D $30,000), but most of the

payment was made in the form of bonds (Eder, 1960).

Allotments of redistributed land could be made to individuals or to cooperatives. If

a beneficiary was needy, the land could be given free of charge, but most of the land

had to be purchased for the amount of money that the National Agrarian Institute

originally paid when it acquired it (Eder, 1960).

The Agrarian Reform Law also included a law of "agricultural" contracts and leases

of rural lands (Title VII, arts. 140-153). Tenants were given the option to purchase the









land they worked from its owner. Certain provisions in contracts, such as having to sell

crops to land owners or receive their inputs or machinery solely from them, and the

payment of rents in advance, were voided. The landlord was also obligated to pay for

betterments made by tenants; a tenant could not be evicted unless such action was

approved by the institute. In addition, he law stated that the government could arbitrate

agrarian conflicts that were harmful to the community (Eder, 1960).

The agrarian reform of 1960 distributed land to over 200,000 families over a 20

year period. Most of these adjudications took place in the first years of the program,

because succeeding presidents ignored the institute and the implementation of the law.

Therefore, the successes of the program were moderate. During the oil boom of the

1970s Dutch Disease intensified and agriculture no longer was profitable. Nearly one-

third of the agrarian reform's beneficiaries dropped out of the program. Moreover,

around 90% of the beneficiaries never actually received legal title to their lands

(Ramachandran, 2006). Although the agrarian reform did have some achievements,

land concentration continued to be a problem. In 1997 it was estimated that 5% of land

owners were in possession of 75% of the land while 75% of land owners were in

possession of only 6% of the land (Wilpert, 2005).

Not much attention has been given to agriculture in Venezuela. Policies actually

implemented have tended to alternate between deregulation and excessive government

intervention (U.S. Library of Congress, Accessed 2010). Land is highly concentrated,

yet much of it is unused. Agricultural production has generally focused on the domestic

market, but has not always fulfilled all of the domestic need. Beginning in 2003, the

government has increasingly had to import larger quantities of food. As Table 4.1

shows, production in areas such as meat and milk has been decreasing.









Chavez's Agrarian Reform

When Chavez took over the presidency in 1998, he began to focus much of his

attention on Venezuela's agrarian sector. One of Chavez's first acts when he took office

was the passage of the 1999 constitution (Wilpert, 2005). Articles 304 through 307 of

the constitution put forward a set of principles for standards of action when it involving

land. First, it states that the strategy for rural development should be based on the

promotion of sustainable agriculture. Second, the state has to guarantee food security.

Third, the state has to promote "financial and commercial" measures and even

interventions in order to achieve sustainable food security. Fourth, the state shall

promote the well-being of the people and generate employment. Fifth, the state is to

compensate for the disadvantages to those who are involved in agricultural production.

Sixth, the constitution calls for institutional change, specifically in the countryside

(Ramachandran, 2006). Article 307 of the constitution states:

The predominance of large idle estates (latifundios) is contrary to the
interests of society. Appropriate tax law provisions shall be enacted to tax
fallow lands and establish the necessary measures to transform them into
agricultural productive units, likewise recovering arable land. Farmers and
other agricultural producers are entitled to own land in the cases and forms
specified under the pertinent law. The state shall protect and promote
associative and private forms of property in such a manner as to guarantee
agricultural production. The state shall see to the sustainable ordering of
arable land to guarantee its food-producing potential.

The constitution thus makes clear that latifundios are against the form of

development that the government will be promoting and that it is the responsibility of the

state to promote agricultural development (Wilpert, 2005).

In November 2001 a land reform law was passed that went into effect in

December 2002 and allowed Chavez to pass a set of 49 decrees. The law and a

redistribution program are known as Mission Zamora, named in Honor of Ezequiel









Zamora a 19th century peasant leader. The law states that large land owners are

entitled to their land, but it limits the size of their holdings. It also requires for land to be

productive or it is liable to be taxed or expropriated. Expropriations, however, must be

compensated at fair market value (Wilpert, 2005).

Under the law the National Land Institute (INTI) is in charge of deciding how

much land any one person or company can hold and it also decides whether land is

being used appropriately or not. (Wilpert, 2005). Additionally, the Ministry of the

People's Economy (MINEP), the Ministry for Science and Technology (MCyT), and the

Ministry for Food (who set up the MERCAL stores) are all involved in the agrarian

reform (The Marxist, 2006).

The limits on private land holdings set by the INTI are 50 hectares of good quality

land and 3,000 hectares of low quality land. Any citizen who is either single or the head

of a household and is between the ages of 18 and 25 can apply for a parcel of land. In

many cases cooperatives have also been set up (Wilpert, 2005).

In June of 2003 the president of INTI at the time, Ricardo Leonett, stated in an

interview that there were 19 million hectares of land suitable for cultivation in

Venezuela. He also stated that 31,437 individual or collective "land charters" had been

issued since the start of the agrarian reform (Marquez, 2009)

In 2006 the numbers given were a little different. The president of INTI at that

point in time, Richard Vivas, t estimated Venezuela had about 30 million hectares of

arable land. He said about 19 million of those hectares were either owned by the state

or controlled by INTI. He also said 11 million hectares were owned privately, yet 10

million of those hectares were under dispute (Ramachandran, 2006).









The State of Zulia

The state of Zulia takes up around 63,100 square kilometers of Venezuela. It is

considered to be a very important state due to the fact that about 80% of the nation's

petroleum comes from there. Zulia is also a very important agricultural center (Gobierno

en Linea). An estimated 34% of the state's agricultural land is used for crops, 41% for

cattle ranching and the rest are mixed systems and forestry. The state's cattle industry

is very important; Nearly 70% of the nation's meat and dairy production takes place in

Zulia. About 12% of the nation's crop production also takes place in Zulia. Most of the

agricultural production takes place in the southern part of the state, the area known as

"el sur del lago," Which is only a few hours outside of Venezuela's second largest city,

Maracaibo (tuzulia.com, accessed 2010).

The State of Zulia's cattle ranchers are extremely well organized and the local

rancher's association, FEGALAGO (Federaci6n de Ganaderos del Lago de Maracaibo),

is closely tied to the national rancher's association (FEDENAGA). The ranchers in this

region oppose Chavez's agrarian reform. In fact, the agrarian reform is without a doubt

the most important issue of contention between the cattle ranchers and the Chavez

government.

According to FEDENAGA, in 2009, 590 estates have been confiscated by the

National Land Institute since 2006. Zulia is the state that has the largest number of

confiscations, with a total of 187 confiscations out of the total 590(Tovar, 2009). It is not

surprising, then, that many ranchers in the State of Zulia cite legal insecurity and land

tenancy as one of the biggest problems facing agricultural production.

In Venezuela, agriculture has been put on the backburner since oil became the

predominant source of income for the country in the 1930s. Policies have wavered back









and forth, never guiding agricultural production to its maximum potential. Food has

been imported, increasingly over the years, and agricultural activities have been left to

those who could afford to participate in it as a pastime. Land has been concentrated in

the hands of the wealthy and most of the population abandoned the countryside for the

urban cities anyway. The government tried to correct this problem with a very

progressive agrarian reform in the 1960s, but it is successes were moderate at best.

Today's agrarian reform is a question of great dispute. It has caused a great

amount of tension and fighting between agricultural producers, peasants, and the

Venezuelan government. The reform has no doubt disrupted production, which is to be

expected when such major changes take place. In the state of Zulia, where many large

landowners are facing expropriations, the major problems of Venezuela's agricultural

production are exemplified. In the following chapter I will discuss these problems and

how Venezuela's agricultural, political, and social history all affect the nation's food

security.









Table 4-1. Venezuela's dry, whole milk production
Market Year Production Unit of Measure Change
1993 72 (1000 MT) 7.46%
1994 63 (1000 MT) 12.50%
1995 60 (1000 MT) -4.76%
1996 52 (1000 MT) -13.3%
1997 48 (1000 MT) -7.69%
1998 40 (1000 MT) -16.6%
1999 35 (1000 MT) -12.5%
2000 38 (1000 MT) 8.57%
2001 31 (1000 MT) -18.4%
Source: FENAVI
Note: Estimates Denoted by*

Table 4-2. Venezuela's animal numbers, cattle production
Market Year Production Unit of Measure Change
1993 2593 (1000 HEAD) -0.15 %
1994 2397 (1000 HEAD) -7.56%
1995 2369 (1000 HEAD) -1.17%
1996 3354 (1000 HEAD) 41.58%
1997 2818 (1000 HEAD) -15.98 %
1998 2589 (1000 HEAD) -8.13%
1999 2499 (1000 HEAD) -3.48 %
2000 2689 (1000 HEAD) 7.60%
2001 2576 (1000 HEAD) -4.20 %
Source: Index Mundi (Accessed 2010)









CHAPTER 5
PROBLEMS AFFECTING FOOD SECURITY

A 2007 CEPAL (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean)

report indicated that in that year Venezuela would enter its fifth consecutive year of

sustained growth. In 2001 experienced an 8.5% growth rate, one of the highest in the

region (Carlson, 2007). This growth brought about an increase in the population's

purchasing power of about 8% annually from 2004 through 2007. Venezuela also shows

a lower unemployment rate and one of the highest minimum wages in Latin America

and since Chavez became president, it has also been one of the region's leaders in

social spending. The government approved a budget of Bs. 137.5 billion (U.S. $ 63.9

billion) for 2008 and 46% of that budget was for the purpose of social spending (Ibid.).

In 2005 Datos Informativos Resources released a report on social indicators in

Venezuela showing there has been a "dramatic impoverishment" over the past 20 years

(Gidin, 2005). From 1984 to 2004 the share of Venezuela's poorest increased from 40

to 58% of the population. The number of middle and upper class Venezuelans

decreased from 28% to 4%. During that same period unemployment rose 53%.

Although the economy began to grow in 2005, the small elite's purchasing power was

eroded (Ibid). However, for Venezuela's lowest classes, which make up 84% of the

population, conditions have actually improved. In 2005 their income increased by 53%,

which constitutes an improvement of 33% after accounting for inflation. In addition,

government social programs provide education, health and subsidized food (Ibid).

Although the economic situation in Venezuela is troublesome for some and while

others are finding sustenance from government programs, finding food in Venezuela is

a problem that everyone is facing. In the previous chapters I have described the issues

of political and social insecurity that affect Venezuelans and I also have described the

47









agricultural background of the country. In this chapter I will describe specific problems

that affect food availability within these larger issues.

In this chapter I will analyze the problems that both the government and cattle

ranchers have indicated as the reasons for a lack of food availability, drawing on my

interviews with cattle ranchers in the State of Zulia. The chapter is organized into the

following subsections: Food Hoarding, Price Controls, Imports and the Decline in

Production. In each of these I assess the impact of each problem on the overall

availability of food.

Food Hoarding

According to the Venezuelan government, the primary causes of food scarcity

are food hoarding and contraband. The government blames the "capitalists" and those

in the opposition with hoarding and smuggling in order to subvert the revolution. Those

who engage in contraband and food hoarding do so in order to obtain better prices for

items either at a later date or in other countries, especially in Colombia (Reuters,

January 22, 2008) In early 2008 PDVAL (Producci6n y Distribuci6n Venezolana de

Alimentos), a PDVSA food subsidiary, was created in order to fight food hoarding and

contraband. PDVAL is now the direct distributor of various food items, including Leche

Venezuela (Venezuelan milk) a product made by a Venezuelan state agency. It also is

in charge of distributing the large amounts of food imported by the government. PDVAL

was organized by Venezuela's energy and oil minister and president of PDVSA, Rafael

Ramirez, with the help of the agriculture and food ministries, the Bolivarian missions,

Mercal, the armed forces and the electricity companies (Venezuelanalysis.com, January

22, 2008).









Chavez has spoken out against hoarding and smuggling and on many occasions

has sent the military to fight those who engage in the illicit activities. In February 2008,

the government decreed that it can take over grocery stores and food distributors

caught hoarding. This, however, has backfired because it has caused many shop

owners to keep smaller inventories for fear of being accused of impropriety.

Shortly after Chavez's February announcement, Polar Foods' (one of

Venezuela's largest food companies) vice president, Ram6n Carrizales, denied such

accusations, assuring that the company's plants were "producing at maximum capacity"

and that all of their food was being distributed properly. He even pointed to the seventy

government inspections of the previous four months to substantiate his defense

(Sugget, 2008). In 2009, however, Polar Foods and other companies such as U.S. -

owned Cargill would be affected by Chavez's policies (Talqualdigital.com, February 8,

2009).

The impact that food hoarding and smuggling has on food availability is not

minimal. In March of 2009 alone Venezuela's National Guard uncovered more than 1.7

million kilos of food that was being hoarded (Diario Critico de Venezuela, 2009). The

government has made great efforts to prevent this problem from occurring, even to the

point of creating problems with neighboring Colombia. In October 2009 there were

protests along the Colombian border by men and women who make a living taking food

products and gasoline from Venezuela and Colombia (La Verdad, March 10, 2009).

Price Controls

Critics of Chavez's policies affirm that the increase in food hoarding and

smuggling, as well as the increase in food scarcity, in recent years is due to the

implementation of price controls on basic food items. In 2003 the Venezuelan









government instituted price controls after the oil strike of December 2002 and the

PDVSA-led workers lockout in January that year (Romero, 2007). This marked the

beginning of the sporadic shortages of basic food items such as meat, milk and sugar.

Agricultural producers and food distributors argue that the price controls prevent

them from making a profit, especially after accounting for inflation (Romero, 2007).

Sometimes the profit is just not large enough for retailers to buy and sell certain food

products. This became the case with yellow cheeses, such as Gouda, Munster and

American cheeses, which were regulated beginning in February 2008. The mark-up for

a kilogram of Gouda cheese in 2008 was only 4 Bolivars. However, retailers still had to

pay the personnel and purchase special paper and other items to sell the cheese.

Therefore, they stopped selling such cheeses, which are now extremely difficult to find

(Contreras, 2008).

To get around the problem of price controls, producers stopped producing the

regulated items, which are the ones that make up the basic staples of the Venezuelan

diet. In a conversation I had with the maid of my Venezuelan host, Laura, she

complained about the scarcity of certain items that could not even be found in the

Mercal stores. She said that cheap cuts of meat and basic white rice, items that are

regulated, could not be found and instead people had to purchase "fancy" or enriched

rice and cuts of meat that are not controlled. "I live with 15 people in my house. That is a

lot of people to feed and the rice that we used to eat every day is just too expensive. So

now we just don't eat rice," she told me (Interview with Laura, Maracaibo, Venezuela,

June 20, 2008).

As mentioned before, in 2009 Chavez dealt a blow to food producers like Polar

Foods and Cargill, specifically to rice producers. Chavez ordered troops to take over









rice processing plants since they were accused of sidestepping the law. "I will

expropriate them, I have no problem with that and I'll pay them with bonds. Don't count

on me paying them with hard cash," Chavez said about the rice producers in a speech

right before he sent out the troops (Talqualdigital.com, October 18, 2009).

In order to control those who sidestep the law and ensure the production of the

basic regulated items, Chavez has now established minimum quantities for the

production and distribution of basic food items. Under the new measure, 80% of the rice

produced domestically must be the basic white rice controlled by government prices. 90

% of all cooking oil, sugar and coffee must also be of the variety that is controlled by the

government (Grant, 2009).

The government's hope is that these measures will increase food availability and

contain costs. However, business leaders, food vendors and producers see this as an

attack on their ability to make a profit. They contend the government does not take

inflation into account and expects them to produce and sell at a loss, so many have

stopped producing (Grant, 2009).

Imports

To combat food scarcity, the Venezuelan government has taken up the banner of

food security, as opposed to food sovereignty, and has increased food imports. In 2008

and 2009 the government used its vast oil revenues to import and subsidize the cost of

food. In 2008 the government imported 74,000 tons of food (Hernandez, 2008). The

majority of milk and 60% of the nation's food is purchased abroad (Ibid).

According to the Venezuelan Central Bank, Venezuela spent U.S. $ 7.5 billion on

food imports, 79% more than in 2007. According to the Dutch Dairy Board, in 2008

Venezuela imported 170,000 tons more powdered milk than the 120,000 tons they









imported in 2007. The board contends that Venezuela is the world's largest market for

powdered milk (Cited in Tovar, 2009). In 2008 the Venezuelan government spent U.S.

$1 billion dollars on fresh and frozen beef, an increase of 103% from 2007 after

adjusting for inflation (Tovar, 2009). Table 5-1 shows the increase in Venezuela's yearly

food imports.

The imports have been deemed necessary by the government. However, this

level of imports is only possible because of the country's large oil revenues and is

unsustainable in the long run. Food producers also complain that in the short run,

excess imports hamper their ability to find markets for what they do produce. They ask

that the government take all the different actors into consideration when it comes to

importing. Not only do excessive imports glut the markets, but when the government

imports food it sells it at subsidized prices that Venezuelan producers cannot compete

with (Valera, 2009).

In April 2009 cattle rancher Victor Aldana said on behalf of the small and

medium-sized cattle ranchers that milk producers in Venezuela are on the border of

ruin. The ranchers protested the government's plan to import 70,000 tons of

reconstituted milk to be consumed in three months. The ranchers fear their own milk

production will have to compete with the sale of this milk that will be sold at extremely

low prices through government supermarkets. The ranchers complain they will have to

sell their milk at these low prices, which are less than half of the regulated milk price. In

his speech, Aldana asked the president and other governing entities to fix the situation,

saying that they do not ask for them to cease imports because they understand that

such are necessary in order to feed the country. They want the government to pay

closer attention and have greater communication with the producing sector so that









imports do not become harmful to internal production. They contend that internal

production has suffered from a lack of government interest in and communication with

the agricultural sectors in the country (FEDENAGA, April 8, 2009).

Alberto, a third generation cattle rancher in Zulia, is one of those who believe that

government imports are doing more to harm the country than help it.

This government has turned into a government focused on imports. It
seems that it is not interested in producing anything, because we producers
do not support the government. We have been in opposition since the
beginning and it is more convenient for the government to have us struggle.
The government does not want to see a strong cattle ranchers' association
that is in constant opposition to it. He (Chavez) wants us to fit his criteria,
which is why he has set up parallel associations. In fact, he does not meet
with us. He only meets with Bolivarian ranchers, those from GAVEN and
COFAGAN, the ones who do not even own any property or produce any
food. But us, the real ranchers, the ones with the land, with us he does not
meet. Because we have always opposed him (Interview with Alberto,
Maracaibo, Venezuela, June 30, 2008).

Alberto's opinion is obviously extremely politicized; however, many agree with this

view and it seems to be the official stance of the major ranchers associations.

FEGALAGO's (Federaci6n de Ganaderos de la Cuenca del Lago; The Federation of

Cattle Ranchers of Lake Maracaibo's Basin) president, Ruben Barboza, summed up the

association's view on the Chavez's overall agricultural policies. In an interview in the

newspaper, La Verdad, he complained that price caps and inflation affect consumers,

debilitate national production and invite massive food imports. He said that "While we

have our farms in the ports, Venezuela will be a poor country, because it will not even

be capable of being self-sufficient, having the land and the men (to work it)" (La Verdad,

January 7, 2009).

The Decline in Production

The Venezuelan government insists that Venezuelan agricultural production has

not declined in the past few years. However, agricultural producers, especially cattle

53









ranchers, have been extremely vocal about the problems in production and their

decline. Organizations like FEDENAGA and FEDELAGO are extremely outspoken

about the insecurity faced by agricultural producers in general, and cattle ranchers

specifically. They are faced with personal insecurity that comes in the form of crime and

violence, as well as political insecurity due to Chavez's policies and the agrarian reform.

Crime and political insecurity have negative effects on production and on any

type of economic activity in general. I believe that in Venezuela it is the fear, and not

just crime and political insecurity in general, of these events that has the most effect on

individuals and their behavior. As was demonstrated previously, there is no denying that

in Venezuela crime is extremely high and that politically, the nation is unstable.

However, the degree to which an individual fears what is happening in the nation

depends largely upon their social and political position. Cattle ranchers as a group

believe that they have much to fear.

In Venezuela meat and milk producers currently form part of the hated "landed

aristocracy." Cattle ranchers tend to have huge estates and come from wealthy families.

However, ranching is not their main source of income. Many of them are doctors,

lawyers, politicians and business owners for whom ranching is either a family tradition

or an exciting pastime. For example, as noted by one of my interviewees:

"I am a rancher because my father was and so was my grandfather before him. It is too

difficult in Venezuela to make money off of this. Our production is not large enough, we

don't have the soils and the climate. I am a rancher because I love it. I love the land and

I love feeding my people (Interview with Luis Enrique, Maracaibo, Venezuela, June 12,

2008)."









In today's political climate this group of people, who for a long time were part of

the political elite, are on the outside. Many form part of the opposition to the Chavez

government. In fact, the major and most influential group representing cattle ranchers,

FEDENAGA founded in the early 1960s, is in outright opposition to the current

government. According to its members, the government refuses to meet with them and

disregards them. The government, in fact, created COFAGAN (Confederaci6n Nacional

de Agricultores y Ganaderos de Venezuela) as an alternative to FEDENAGA.

Many ranchers (including those I interviewed) agree that being in opposition to

the government hampers their ability to produce. They point to government policies that

negatively affect their ability to produce, such as price caps on food, and the increased

import of foods that competes with local production, and especially the agrarian reform.

They contend that the problem with food availability is that production has declined

because of personal insecurity that comes from crime and to political insecurity that

comes from government policies.

The Decline in Production Crime's Role

In Venezuela kidnapping are on the rise and ranchers are one of the most

affected groups. Personal insecurity and crime in Venezuela affect everyone, especially

the wealthy. For ranchers, however, the case is extremely poignant when it comes to

the case of kidnapping. According to the Caracas-based newspaper El Universal

(October 7, 2007), the CICPC, the Body of Scientific Penal and Criminal Investigation,

claims that by the beginning of October 2007, 212 people had been kidnapped that year

in Venezuela. FEDENAGA, the National Federation of Cattle Ranchers, gave a more

conservative estimate, claiming that 177 people had been victims of kidnapping to that

point, 67 of whom were agricultural producers. The reasons why they are a targeted









group are simple. Many of them are well known in their communities and their wealth is

apparent. Criminals can easily see how much land a rancher has and how many heads

of cattle he owns and therefore can quickly estimate how much money a family may be

willing and able to pay to rescue a loved one. Increasing the danger if the location of

these properties in remote areas, where there are no police, allowing bands and rebel

groups to organize easily and quickly.

The areas that are most affected by kidnapping are on the western border of

Venezuela where there are many vast, yet remote agricultural holdings. According to

the BBC News (January 13, 2007), many of the kidnapping in the border states are

believed to be linked to Colombian rebel groups, including the FARC, the Colombian

Revolutionary Armed Forces. Many of these guerilla groups flee Colombia periodically

and hide in neighboring Venezuelan states. The kidnapping, mostly of wealthy

ranchers, are a way of raising revenue for food, clothing and the financing of many of

their ventures. These groups also send letters to landowners and their families

threatening to kidnap them if they do not make payments up front for their protection.

Farmers and ranchers in these areas live in constant fear for their lives and the

lives of their families. Many have had to change the way they live, as in the case of

Juan Romero, a cattle rancher in the State of Zulia. He no longer lives on his ranch and

has moved his family to the nearest city, visiting only occasionally. He no longer

inspects his ranch daily because "(He) could be ambushed quite easily on the farm." He

also gives some insight as to how other ranchers in the area are responding to the

increasing insecurity: "It's true that the kidnappers have forced us to change our lives.

Many of us have sold out and left. Others are hiring bodyguards to continue farming"

(Morsbach, 2007).









The effect that insecurity has on cattle ranchers and on their production of

foodstuff is major. Fear of crime, even more than crime itself, dictates how they live their

lives. Many spend considerable sums of money that otherwise could be invested into

production on security, such as the hiring of body guards, buying of armored vehicles,

buying of arms, etc. If these men or their family members are kidnapped, then

sometimes they must sell all of their property and, if their lives are spared, then they are

broke. This has a serious effect on production, because it reduces the number of

producers. These men, in order to protect their lives, spend less and less time on their

land, leaving the daily management to a manager or hired hand who may or may not be

as attentive as the owner. Finally, what has become increasingly common is that

ranchers stop producing. These ranchers either sell out or leave their holdings

unproductive because the risk is too great.

Fernando is a veterinarian, a consultant for animal production enterprises, and an

agricultural producer himself. He agreed to talk to me about the overall production

situation in Venezuela. However, he declined to talk much about his own business

because of fear for his safety and that of his property. Fernando has been threatened

by kidnappers. At the time of the interview he was fighting the expropriation of his lands.

He already had ceded part of his holdings to the government, in hopes that he would be

allowed to keep the rest. However, he told me that he had to go to Caracas at least

once a month to meet with representatives of the INTI in order to stop the government

from taking more of his property. He also sees himself as a political target. Fernando

breaks down the problems with Venezuelan cattle production into two parts: personal

insecurity that comes in the form of crime and violence and political insecurity that

comes from government policy and action.









We can say that insecurity is one of the factors that at this moment has one
of the biggest negative effects on the production of food in Venezuela. We
can talk about insecurity as personal insecurity, as judicial insecurity, which
is the most important one, and as industrial insecurity of goods and services
(Interview with Fernando, Maracaibo, Venezuela, July 6, 2008).

Fernando, as well as other ranchers I interviewed, pointed out how personal

insecurity and fear of life are affecting not only ranchers, but all Venezuelans. Ranchers

historically have been affected by crime, especially in the form of kidnapping.

Fernando said that crime can be separated into common crime, which "... is just the

robber who breaks into your house to steal or whatnot" and organized crime, which "is

the one in which the mafia or organized professionals carry out kidnapping, which are

influenced by the Colombian FARC" (Interview with Fernando, Maracaibo, Venezuela,

July 6, 2008). Venezuelans, especially those living along the border with Colombia,

have felt the repercussions of the Colombian government's struggle with the guerrillas.

However, Colombia's successes in pushing out the guerrilla forces have sent them

farther and farther into Venezuela. Donato, a rancher whose property in Zulia lies very

close to the Colombian border, is in complete agreement with Fernando when it comes

to his views on the FARC.

We have here, especially over the Venezuelan rural sector, the influence
and presence of the FARC. Kidnapping producers and asking for one
thousand million Bolivars has become commonplace. They kidnap
producers that have some economic means and we know of cases where
they have made him (the producer) sell his herd just to pay. I mean, the
man has 300 cows, they may be worth one thousand million Bolivars. They
make him sell the cows and then hand the money to the FARC and they
return the man. Therefore, that producer is not producing milk, or meat, or
grains, or anything at all. They have left him in ruin. And that is the impact
of personal insecurity.

We have some indicators that make us think that the Venezuelan
government is in some way protecting the organized crime in which the
FARC participates. Why? Because there are constant complaints about
(FARC) camps and the government does not do anything about it. So, what
does that make us think? That the government protects the guerillas. If the









government is not collaborating with the guerrillas it is at least protecting
them and allows them to do certain things that are prohibited (Interview with
Donato, Maracaibo, Venezuela, July 12, 2008).

Accusations like this one by Donato are not completely unfounded. They need to

be understood in terms of events that are covered by the media, such as the early

March 2008 incident in which Colombia's army entered Ecuador without permission in

order to raid a FARC camp. The situation seemed to be escalating and it made many

nervous about the relations between Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. However,

what made many more people uncertain were documents tying Hugo Chavez to the

FARC that were recovered from the computer of Raul Reyes, a senior leader of the

FARC guerrillas who was killed during the raid. According to The Economist "the files

appear to show that Mr. Chavez offered the FARC up to $300m, and talked of allocating

the guerrillas an oil ration which they could sell for profit. They also suggest that

Venezuelan army officers helped the FARC to obtain small arms, such as rocket-

propelled grenades, and to set up meetings with arms dealers." Chavez denies these

claims, and although the messages were authenticated by Interpol, he claims that these

were fabricated (The Economist, May 22, 2008). Whether these claims are true or false,

they have fueled the distrust that many in the opposition, especially ranchers, have for

Chavez.

Ruben Barbosa, from Santa Barbara del Zulia, is a milk, meat, and plantain

producer who is also the president of FEGALAGO. FEGALAGO is the association of

ranchers around Lake Zulia, an organization which is closely associated with

FEDENAGA.

Look, the Sierra de Perija and all of the frontier (with Colombia) is filled with
guerrillas, because Colombia is getting rid of the guerrilla. They said 'either
you become pacified or we will exterminate you,' and all of them are
running here. So there are guerrilla camps in all of the frontier zone. In the

59









municipalities of Luis Enrique Losada, el Catatumbo, Rosario de Perija, in
Machiques de Perija, in all of these the impudence is so great that you see
military units side by side with guerrilla encampments. In addition to that,
they provide them with food. You can see military trucks with food from the
Mercal traveling towards the guerrilla encampments. The government
denies that there are guerrillas, the government denies everything.

But right now in Zulia there are 65 individuals kidnapped, from January until
now. Twelve of them are agricultural producers. In all of Venezuela there
are almost 160 kidnapping right now. In just the past seven months! I
mean, this is alarming. This is total chaos and we have declared ourselves
to be in an emergency, but the government says that we are exaggerating.
How do you see that? The situation we are living in is terrifying, but we are
not going to run away from our country. We prefer to fight for political
change and this government has to reach its end. The nation has to
become aware of the reality we are living in and of the danger we are in. If
we continue this way and famine does hit and we find ourselves without our
domestic production, well I think that would be the beginning of a civil war
here (Interview with Ruben Barbosa, Maracaibo, Venezuela, July 12, 2009).

Distrust of the government, however, is not only reserved for Chavez. Regardless

of ideological or political position, most Venezuelans have a great distrust of the

authorities, including the military and the police. Ernesto Vilchez is a 19-year-old upper

middle class college student. He and his family are avid Chavez supporters and see

much of what the government is accomplishing in a positive light. However, Ernesto

shows a complete distrust for the police and told me that "...no matter what, you do not

call the police. If I am out in the street and somebody hits my car, what can I do? Call

the police? What are they going to do? Nothing. Or they can just try to take my money.

They are useless and they can't be trusted (Interview with Ernesto Vilchez, Maracaibo,

Venezuela, June 9, 2008)."

Distrust in the police and the military is reinforced when members of these forces

are linked to criminal activity. In July, 2007 Ruben Dario Bravo G6mez was abducted

from his cattle ranch by seven armed individuals. The Cuerpo de Investigaciones

Cientificas, Penales y Criminalisticas (CICP) of the State of Cojedes handled the









investigation and discovered that two of the men involved in the kidnapping were part of

the National Guard, including an officer from the anti-extortion and anti-kidnapping

team (GAES: Grupo Antiextorsi6n y Secuestro) of the Venezuelan State of Anzoategui

(Piiero, 2007).

The ranchers' fears may seem exaggerated. However, one has only to open a

newspaper or watch the news in Venezuela to find reports of victims who have been

kidnapped. Many of these victims are ranchers or their families have been targeted.

Table 5-2 is a short list of some of the ranchers (many of them from the State of Zulia)

who were victims reported in various news sources from 2007 until 2009.

Crime and fear of kidnapping affect ranchers in numerous ways. The fearfulness

of this group of people was made apparent to me early on in my investigation, because

it was extremely difficult to find those who were willing to be interviewed. The threat of

kidnapping, reprisals and distrust of the police and the government, have made many

property owners very fearful. For example, Miguel is a meat and dairy producer with

property on the outskirts of Maracaibo. At the time of the interview he had been recently

threatened by a band of kidnappers and was very hesitant to speak to me and only

agreed to do so after I assured him that his personal information would be kept

confidential.

People have stopped investing in agriculture, because they do not have
legal security with respect to their land holdings, and added to that you
have personal insecurity, which has worsened in the past six to seven
years. Insecurity has been slowly getting worse and worse. Before, it was
only in certain areas that it was dangerous, on the frontier and those areas.
Now, the entire state of Zulia is affected. That, of course, changes the way
you run your business. I used to go to my farm every Tuesday and I would
come back on Fridays. I would spend the entire week there. But two months
ago they tried to kidnap me at my ranch. So now I only go once or twice a
month with some bodyguards just to take a look and to supervise the
administrator I now have there. (Interview with Miguel, Maracaibo,
Venezuela, June 30, 2008).









Miguel brought up one of the biggest problems for Venezuelan agriculture.

Investment in agriculture has previously been done only by private producers with little

to no government help. However, increased insecurity (both personal and as we will

later see also political) has reduced the level of investment by private producers. Less

money and less time is spent by ranchers on their property. More money, however, is

being spent on security in order to protect themselves and their families. Miguel

emphasized the increased costs caused by insecurity.

Personal insecurity at this moment increases costs. Because, if you have
to pay for your own security, to invest in security, you increase the costs of
production. So, if you have to pay ten men so that they take care of you,
you have to add it to the total costs of production. So, many of the
producers, or owners of the companies, hardly visit [their lands] because
they are scared. What I mean is that they live somewhere else, or they
move to another city, because they are scared that they will get kidnapped
or robbed (Interview with Miguel, Maracaibo, Venezuela, June 30, 2008).

Miguel's sentiments were echoed by Ruben Barbosa who emphasized both the

difficulty for ranchers today his worry for the future of Venezuelan production.

Look, the consequences (of insecurity) can't be measured, but they are
very dangerous and very harmful. First of all, due to the high levels of
judicial insecurity, of extortion, kidnapping and criminality, we have
stopped living on our farms, we have stopped taking our children there
because of fear and we are losing our family tradition. In my case, I am the
fourth generation of agricultural producers in my family. But look, my three
oldest sons went to school graduated, and are working in the United States
(Interview with Ruben Barbosa, Maracaibo, Venezuela, July 12, 2009).

Ranchers are not the only ones calling for the government to do something about

insecurity and about the FARC. On many occasions, Zulia's governor and ex-candidate

for the presidency, Manuel Rosales, gave a speech demanding that Chavez ask the

FARC to leave Venezuelan territory. He has also asked that Chavez combat the

alliances that the FARC has with the mafia and other groups that are involved in

kidnapping and extortion in Venezuela. In January 2008 Rosales met with various









members of the Venezuelan government in order to try and coordinate a plan for border

security and formally denounce FARC activity in Venezuela. President Chavez,

however, still holds that the FARC does not have any Venezuelans as hostages and

has even asked the international community to remove the FARC and the ELN from any

terrorist groups lists (El Nuevo Herald, January 19, 2008).

Like Barbosa, Genaro Mendez, the president of FEDENAGA until 2009, also

demands that Chavez's government do something about the FARC. In a press

conference Mendez stated that the FARC has three camps in various Venezuelan

states that border Colombia. Chavez's government, however, has denied the presence

of these camps to the outrage of opposition leaders and Colombian politicians

(Contreraz, 2008). Barbosa made a very passionate argument about the effects of

insecurity. He is very aware of the problem, because many of his friends and colleagues

have suffered from this problem.

Personal insecurity and the threat of a kidnapping changes your life
completely. Someone who suffers through a kidnapping is left completely
destroyed, morally, economically and socially. They are completely
organized. There are organized groups in the cities that have dedicated
themselves to that. I mean, do you know what's great? That some other fool
work really hard and all you have to do is threaten his life or that of his
family and he just gives you his lifelong effort. That is destroying our country
and it is destroying agricultural production. The agricultural exodus due to
insecurity is dramatic. Our government is not doing anything about that.
You look at the national government and they protect the delinquents. You
look at state and municipal governments and they maintain themselves at
the margin of the problem. So, we are the ones left to fight and thanks to
the media we are able to send our message across so that all Venezuelan's
can become aware of the dangerous situation we are living in (Interview
with Ruben Barbosa, Maracaibo, Venezuela, July 12, 2009)

The Decline in Production The Role of Political Insecurity

As discussed earlier, most cattle ranchers and large agricultural producers in

general are in disaccord with the Venezuelan government. They maintain it is the









government's treatment of them and the government's agricultural and economic

policies that are causing a decline in their production. The government's agrarian reform

is one of the main complaints against the government. Fernando, like all the cattle

ranchers I spoke with, believes that the Agrarian Reform is doing much to increase land

tenure insecurity and that it goes against the laws of the country.

When it comes to legal insecurity, what is happening? The government
approves a Ley de Tierras with a different vision and trying to copy the laws
that Cuba imposed fifty years ago. In many ways it is similar to the Cuban
law, but here it has allowed the government to commit many offenses
against producers that today own the land. They have taken away lands. In
my particular case, they have confiscated my lands even though I
voluntarily ceded a portion of them to the government. Now they want to
also take the rest of them.

That is part of the insecurity. The government makes the decision to take
over your business and they do not pay you. That, then, is not an
intervention but a confiscation, which is prohibited by the constitution.
Confiscation in Venezuela does not exist in terms of rights, but it does in
terms of actions. Why do I say that? Because even though according to the
law it is not permitted, the Venezuelan government accepts it. So, our very
government takes away our businesses, gives it to someone else, and does
not pay you for it. That is an attack on the production of food in this country
(Interview with Fernando, Maracaibo, Venezuela, July 6, 2008).

An aspect of the land reform that agricultural producers complain about the most is

the issuing of Cartas Agrarias by the INTI, which allows a group of peasants to occupy

land that they deem to be idle and on which they have made a formal complaint. While

the status of the land is in dispute, peasants are allowed to settle on the land and work

it. Landowners set on defending their land, often fight for it and this has increased the

level of violence in the countryside greatly (Wilpert, 2005).

Antonio, a cattle rancher who lives in Maracaibo, but who owns two estates on the

outskirts of the city complained about the way the Cartas Agrarias are issued.

Supposedly, peasants who see a piece of property that they believe is not
productive can denounce it to the INTI. Then the INTI does an investigation,
and according to the report that they make, whether land is productive or









not, they can decide whether to expropriate the land or not. So, if they
consider the land to be unproductive, they give their permission and the
peasants, who are protected by the army, can go on the land and take it
over (Interview with Antonio, Maracaibo, Venezuela, June 12, 2008).

Ranchers and rancher organizations speak out against the violence and the threat

to their property. The Venezuelan peasant organizations have tried to call attention to

the murder of many peasant leaders. However, the peasant organizations are weak and

cannot exert much pressure on local governments or on society for the violence against

peasant leaders and those occupying lands under dispute to end (Wilpert, 2005).

Land Invasions are a great source of fear for cattle ranchers. They see it as a

threat to their property and to their person. Violence, however, comes from both sides

with ranchers and peasants as victims and offenders. In fact, according to the New York

Times, over 80% of land invaders who have been killed, have been killed by landowners

(Forrero, 2005).

One of the most contested and reported examples of land expropriations has

been that of the Vestey group in Venezuela. The Vestey group is a large organization

that owns ranching businesses in Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil along with butcher

shops in Great Britain and shipping lines. They became a target for land expropriation in

2005 when the Venezuelan National Land Institute announced in a "revolutionary

decision" that Vestey's title deeds were "not in order". The government plans to give the

land to 24 state-sponsored cooperatives tasked with growing sugar cane, rice and

beans.

Not all of the invasions are for agricultural purposes. In many cases homeless

families set up camp on these lands and form the barriadas that can be seen on the

outskirts of major cities in Venezuela. In 2007 a few families invaded the Villa Di

Martino, the property of a well-known politician in Zulia. In July 2008 the municipal

65









police of San Francisco, the National Guard and the intelligence brigade went into the

area to eject the squatters who consisted of about 200 women and 400 children with no

other place to live (La Verdad, July 4, 2008). It is believed that the squatters were

removed because of Di Martino's political influence.

Antonio explained that when land is confiscated, production takes a turn for the

worse, because all of the work of the owner is destroyed in the process.

Once they take over the land, production on that site is pretty much over,
because the owner of the property takes everything he can from it. He takes
his machinery, his cattle, whatever he can salvage. Then the land is left at
the disposition of the peasant committee. Supposedly, they are set up as
cooperatives. But if that land was for cattle production before, then it
becomes conucos. They will produce corn or grains, subsistence
production. They do not produce anything extra, which is what you actually
want. So, production is actually lost and the peasants who gain the land
tend to be worse off than before, because they have no knowledge (of
production), they are not given technical or financial assistance or anything.
What you actually get is a land market of sorts, because they will just sell
the lands. Within ten years all those lands will just return to their previous
state (Interview with Antonio, Maracaibo, Venezuela, June 12, 2008).

There are many problems with the land reform, including Venezuela's weak

legal framework, lawlessness, violence, poor infrastructure and support. Many

landowners in Venezuela hold no titles to their land, which slows the process of

investigation. The court system is slow, causing land disputes to drag on for

years. The violence in the rural areas has slowed production and investment and

the police and government officials who have jurisdiction are mostly corrupt

(Wilpert, 2005). The land law prohibits the sale of land adjudicated by the

agrarian reform, which according to Olivier Delahaye, a professor of agronomy at

the Central University of Venezuela, is detrimental to the peasants. After three

years of working the land, a person is given legal title to it. A black market has

risen where peasants sell the titles to their land, but since they do so illegally,









they get extremely low prices for it. Thus creating a vicious cycle where most of

the land that is granted to peasants, eventually end up in the hands of a small

group of wealthy land owners. (Ibid).

Additional problems include a lack of infrastructure and investment in the

new agrarian cooperatives. The National Institute for Rural Development

(INDER) is in charge of providing agricultural infrastructure in the form of roads

and materials, as well as credit for investment and production, and the training of

farmers. According to some ranchers, however, this is not happening and instead

land that could be productive is being wasted.

Donato believes that the lands that are granted are then made unproductive due

to a lack of knowledge by the workers and lack of support from the government. This is

a widely held idea and has proven to be the case many times in various land reforms

around the world, including the various reforms in Latin America in the 1960s (Baker,

1980). When land reform is carried out and peasant holdings are created, the

government must sustain these peasants for some amount of time, including providing

training and education and meeting the subsistence needs of the beneficiaries until they

are self-sufficient. This, however, is not sustainable for long periods of time (Bullard,

2001). There is also the assumption that those who are given land have farming

knowledge and experience. However, especially in the case of Venezuela, this is

usually incorrect. In fact, it has been shown that during most land reforms many of those

who accept land do so reluctantly and would prefer to remain in urban centers if they

could find employment (Ibid). Alberto believes that the government does not give

peasants enough support and that in order to survive, the peasants then sell the land

(Interview with Alberto, Maracaibo, Venezuela, June 30, 2008)..









Whether the land that is granted by the government, many times in the form of

cooperatives, will result in a successful productive structure is still to be seen. The

"Bolivarian Revolution" has come to define its development strategies through a model

of production based on cooperatives. The 1999 constitution states that cooperatives are

tools of economic inclusion, participation and decentralization (Articles 70 and 184).

Articles 118 and 308 also state the government is supposed to "promote and protect"

cooperatives (Piiero, 2005).

In March 2004 the Mission Vuelvan Caras was created to educate adults in

technical, managerial and historical subjects among others. Graduates of the Mission

are then free to go on to a technical profession of their choosing, but are mostly

encouraged to join or form cooperatives. These cooperatives are created and supported

through Nucleos de Desarollo End6geno (Endogenous Development Zones), which are

formed by one or more Vuelvan Caras cooperatives that design and propose a project.

Once this project is approved, the cooperatives are to receive technical training and

support, access to credits and physical space to complete the project. Many of these

cooperatives are urban, but some feed into the Mission Zamora and, therefore, the

agrarian reform (Piiero, 2005).

When Chavez came to power in 1998, there were 762 known cooperatives in

Venezuela. By May 2005 there were 900 Vuelvan Caras cooperatives, 73% of them

were agricultural cooperatives (Piiero, 2005). The cooperatives are seen by the

government as a way to increase production and to improve the lives of the poor.

Members put a great emphasis on production, since they have to pay off loans and

comply with government contracts. According to the members, the main problems stem

from internal communication and from a lack of administrative and managerial skills









(Ibid). Critics, however, point to this lack of skills and to a dependence on government

resources as the reasons why cooperatives will fail. They also point to corruption and

disorganization of government entities as another barrier to their success. Whether

these cooperatives are successful or not is still to be seen. However, it is safe to say

that the cooperatives contribute to generating employment in the country. As I have

reported, they also raise the fears of producers who think they might be displaced by

this form of productive organization (Ibid).

Luis Enrique agrees with Donato's negative view of the agrarian reform. His fears

are not only about his personal situation, but also that the agrarian reform will be

extremely harmful to national agricultural production.

We see the agrarian reform as the destruction of the agricultural sector,
because a reform should have a formal process that guarantees you
payment for your property. The problem is that this government does not
respect anything. It sends people in to invade in a manner that is delinquent
and it does not want to recognize or pay for the work of the owners of the
farms that they invade. When they began with the so-called reform we used
to produce 95% of the consumption in this country. Today only 45% is
produced. They destroyed production units trying to invent and produce in a
completely different direction. Production units should be protected and
lands should be distributed only when they are not productive. In
Anzoategui, Guarico, Ciudad Bolivar, there is a lot of unproductive land
over there. Instead, they pick areas that are already developed and
productive and they completely ruin them.

They set up cooperatives on these lands and give them billions of bolivars
and there they are, but what they produce is pity. [We pity them]. They don't
produce anything else. The people there are living in misery, with no urban
development, or roads to connect them to the rest of the country. They
don't produce anything and the investment is lost and insecurity has been
the only thing generated. They let the lands go to waste and then they sell
them. They don't work them. To the south of the lake many lands were
given away and machinery was given away. It was all lost. They do not
have a farming culture, they were not given instruction or anything. They
wasted the money on trucks and gambling and how are they doing now? In
worse conditions than when they started. They are not development
programs, they are populist programs (Interview with Luis Enrique,
Maracaibo, Venezuela, June 12, 2008).









Land reforms have shown a tendency to destabilize production in the initial

process. This may be due to adjustments in the organization of production, insecurity

over land ownership, or lack of knowledge on the part of new land owners. Land

reforms that have shown a positive impact on productivity tend to be those carried out in

systems that were previously composed of small peasant farms, with a high rate of

insecure tenancy and absentee landlords. However, when the reform breaks up large,

efficient and modern farms in order to substitute them with small producers who not only

know little about modern production, but also know little about farming in general, the

impact is usually devastating to production and efficiency levels (Stalberg, 2006). This

seems to be the case in Venezuela, because it is not only idle land that has become a

target for expropriation. Ranches such as the Vestey Ranch and lands belonging to

large food producers such as Polar and Parmalat have become targets.

As the purchasing power of Venezuela's poor has increased dramatically since

Chavez came to power. For this reason, the government blames food shortages on

increased consumption. However, along those same lines one has to take into account

that the purchasing power of middle class and wealthy Venezuelans has decreased

significantly, so their consumption probably has decreased. Since 2003 there have

actually been multiple reports of increases as well as decreases in consumption.

Between January and October 2009 the consumption of sugar, coffee and powdered

milk have decreased by 25.5%, 20.02% and 9.96% respectively (El Universal, October

6, 2009). However, the effects that food hoarding and smuggling, price caps, high

government imports, crime and political insecurity have on food availability are evident.

These issues are converging and creating problems that are difficult to pinpoint and

much less solve.












Table 5-1. Venezuela's yearly food imports (in tons)


Year Frozen Fresh Rice Wheat Total Difference %
Bovine Milk
Meat
1995 932 1,193 104,637 1,115,044 1,221,806
1996 210 1,109 20,313 939,442 961,074 -21%
1997 628 1,294 118 992,604 994,644 3%
1998 2,130 2,928 144 1,178,207 1,183,409 19%
1999 2,493 2,355 368 1,231,402 1,236,618 4%
2000 3,536 2,768 266 1,236,430 1,243,000 1%
2001 4,126 2,746 245 1,297,381 1,304,498 5%
2002 5,379 2,813 316 899,109 907,617 -30%
2003 1,366 3,680 85,132 1,148,221 1,238,399 36%
2004 10,710 3,457 302 1,213,567 1,228,036 -21%
2005 4,843 5,677 382 1,389,107 1,400,009 14%
2006 7,888 6,990 776 1,739,878 1,755,532 25%
2007 29,558 6,760 520 1,466,111 1,502,949 -14%
2008 55,055 30,862 80,661 1,540,039 1,706,617 14%
Source: Fedeagro.org



Table 5-2. Reports of cattle ranchers kidnapped in Venezuela in 2008 and 2009


Name
Anselmo
Martinez
Fernandez

Ignacio Jose
Fuguett Lugo


Luis Labrador



Humberto
Enrique Rincon
Perez


Alberto Ramirez


Event
A cattle rancher in the State of Zulia was
kidnapped


A cattle rancher, he was kidnapped was
kidnapped from his home in the middle of the
night

He was kidnapped from his ranch. He was then
found dead at the beginning of September
2008.

He became the third victim of kidnapping in
Zulia for 2009. He was kidnapped from his farm
and liberated 30 days later after his family paid
for his release

He was kidnapped while he was working on his
farm in San Pedro, Zulia. He was found dead
about a month later in April


Source
El Universal,
December 13,
2007


El Universal, June
27, 2008


El Universal, 2008



Diario de Los
Andes, April 05,
2009


Radio Noticias
Venezuela, April
06, 2009


Date
13-
Dec-
07

27-
Jun-
08

5-Jul-
08


5-
Mar-
09


27-
Jun-
08









Table
Date
5-
Feb-
10

9-
Feb-
10


5-2 Continued
Name
Angel Enrique
Urdaneta


Edgar Morales


7- Domingo
Feb- Perera
10 Chirinos


Event
He was kidnapped by four armed men at 5:30 in
the morning from his property in the outskirts of
Maracaibo

He was taken from his father's farm by four armed
men at four in the morning


Became the 17th Victim of Kidnapping in the State
of Zulia for 2010. He was held in captivity for 5
days and later released.


Source
La Verdad
February 5,
2010

La Verdad,
February
10,2010

La Verdad,
February 13,
2010









CHAPTER 6
CONCLUSION

Venezuela has been facing chronic food shortages since 2003. The problem has

been constant, although it has demonstrated itself in different ways. Milk, meat, sugar,

rice and beans have been difficult to find at one time or another. When food is available,

however, it is due to the huge amount of imports that the government has had to rely

upon. A close look at the situation shows the complexity of the food availability

problem.

An examination of Venezuela's agricultural history reveals that agriculture has

never been given priority in the country. Dependence on oil has led the government to

emphasize petroleum- based development, which also has led to hyper- urbanization.

Rural areas and agriculture were largely abandoned. Venezuela has therefore never

been completely self sufficient in food, and it should not be a surprise that food

availability has become a problem.

The rise in crime has had a devastating impact on many different sectors and

areas of the country. Many studies have shown how crime affects productivity, and the

example of Venezuela's cattle ranchers is a contribution to this literature. Crime has

affected how often producers go to their ranches, if at all. Money that could be invested

back into production has been diverted towards security and safety precautions. Most

significantly, crime, especially in the form of kidnapping, has driven many cattle

ranchers completely out of production. Once a rancher or one of his family members is

kidnapped, more than likely all of his assets have to be sold to finance a rescue.

Political insecurity is also a major problem that cattle ranchers and others

involved in the food industry are facing. Government policies such as price controls and









the agrarian reform are having an ill effect on food production. The cattle ranchers I

spoke to, and producers in general I have read about, are not willing to produce at a

loss. If they cannot make money from their work and worse, if they lose money from

their efforts, they will cease to produce. Furthermore, many are not willing to make

investments in their property if at any point it can be taken from them.

Because of the decrease in production and availability of food, the government

has had to resort to increasing the amount of food it imports. Although this policy may

solve the short-term problem, it also has caused concern among food producers. They

contend that when their production increases, there is no room for their goods in the

market. Another concern is the sustainability of this policy. Food imports rely on oil

revenues, which are subject to unstable world market conditions.

Food hoarding, as has been pointed out by the government, is also a major

problem impeding Venezuela's food security. Large amounts of food are stored away or

smuggled in to Colombia and the Venezuelan government is making great efforts to

prevent this. Store owners, however, fear being accused of hoarding food and many opt

for stocking fewer items in their stores. This dilemma has affected what shoppers have

available to them.

Crime, political insecurity, food hoarding, and contraband are all major issues

that affect Venezuela's problems with food availability. However, a major contribution of

this project comes is the fact that all of these problems are being looked at together.

The problems are interrelated and they have an effect on each other. They have been

looked at in Venezuela, but never as a whole. Moreover, although these problems all

affect the state of food availability in Venezuela, it is the way these problems are being









dealt with that has the most adverse effects. The major contribution of this project is the

assertion that food availability has become a source of political contention. The

government and those in the food industry (producers, food processors, store owners,

etc) who oppose the government keep blaming each other and many times are unwilling

to work together. The media is replete with stories in which each side places the blame

on the other and they seem unwilling to come together to find a solution. This research

focuses on that very problem that most other observers are failing to notice. It is this

author's belief that Venezuela's problem with food is a problem that affects the entire

nation and until the two sides are willing to work together to find solutions to the

problem, the food security of the country remains at stake.

This problem could not come at a worse time, when researchers from around the

world are pointing to upcoming struggles with food availability that governments around

the world will have to face. Researchers point to global climate changes and erroneous

policies as having negative effects on food production worldwide. This project makes a

contribution to the current literature on food security and can be seen as a stepping

stone for further research. Venezuela's problems have historical roots, but are being

made all the worse due to government policies and social struggles. These types of

problems must be taken seriously into account and should be further studied in order to

grasp the problems the world could be facing in a few years time.









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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Keli Shannan Garcia was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela. She received her

Bachelor of Arts in History at the University of Florida in 2006. She received the

University of Florida Latin American Studies Center Field Research Grant in order to

complete her master's thesis research in 2008.





PAGE 1

1 FOOD AND FEAR IN VENEZUELA By KELI GARCIA A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2010

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2 2010 Keli Garcia

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3 To my Mom and Dad

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank my Mom and Dad for their love and support. I would like to thank Dina and Oswaldo Garcia for giving me a place to stay while I conduc ted my research. I would also like to thank Rebecca Garcia, Oscar Garcia, and Martha Garcia for all of their help and support while conducting my research. Finally, I would like to thank my advisors Carmen Diana Deere, Frederick Royce, and Tim Clark for their guidance and patience during the course of this project.

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5 TABLE OF CONTENTS Page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .................................................................................................. 4 LIST OF TABLES ............................................................................................................ 6 ABSTRACT ..................................................................................................................... 7 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ...................................................................................................... 9 2 POLITICS: EITHER YOU ARE IN OR YOU ARE OUT ........................................... 17 3 CRIME IN VENEZUELA ......................................................................................... 31 4 THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR OF VENEZUELA AND ZULIA ............................ 39 The Agrarian Reform of 1960 ................................................................................. 39 Chvezs Agrarian Reform ...................................................................................... 42 The State of Zulia ................................................................................................... 44 5 PROBLEMS AFFECTING FOOD SECURITY ........................................................ 47 Food Hoarding ........................................................................................................ 48 Price Controls ......................................................................................................... 49 Imports .................................................................................................................... 51 The Decline in Production ....................................................................................... 53 The Decline in Production Crimes Role ........................................................ 55 The Decline in Production The Role of Political Insecurity ............................ 63 6 CONCLUSION ........................................................................................................ 73 REFERE NCES .............................................................................................................. 76 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ............................................................................................ 86

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6 LIST OF TABLES Table page 1 1 Venezuelas poultry and egg consumption ......................................................... 16 4 1 Venezuelas dry, whole milk production .............................................................. 46 4 2 Venezuelas animal numbers, cattle production ................................................. 46 5 1 Venezuelas yearly food imports (in tons) ........................................................... 71 5 2 Reports of cattle ranchers kidnapped in venezuela in 2008 and 2009 ............... 71

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7 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requir ements for the Degree of Master of Arts FOOD AND FEAR IN VENEZUELA By Keli Garcia August 2010 Chair: Carmen Diana Deere Major: Latin American Studies The purpose of this study is to identify the reasons behind Venezuelas food scarcity. The country has faced severe food shortages, especially since 2003. My thesis is that it is the combined effect of c r ime, political insecurity and governmental policies that explain the current food shortages and Venezuelas continued dependency on imports of foodstuffs. The methodology employed in this study was primarily qualitative. I interviewed cattle ranche s in t he state of Zulia during the summer of 2008 to assess the situation from their perspectives. In addition, a newspaper survey was undertaken to gather information on the incidence of crime and reactions to it. A review of secondary sources in Venezuela was useful to analyze the complicated situation in this country. The research shows that crime has an ill effect on Venezuelas food security. Agricultural producers are a major target for kidnappers and in order to ensure their own security they must invest large amounts of money in security and often neglect their lands. Government agricultural policies both in the past and the present have also created problems for the countrys food security. One of the greatest current points of contention is the agr arian reform W hether or not it will be successful o is yet to be

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8 seen. However, as with any agrarian reform, the process is bound to destabiliz e production. Political differences have also pitt ed large agricultural producers against the government. This has created a lot of infighting and instability that negatively affects the ability of both the government and producer to ensure greater food production. It is this battle among political opponents that makes the situation particularly problematic

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9 CHA PTER 1 INTRODUCTION In 2007 and early 2008 food scarcity in Venezuela was palpable. People would wait hours in long lines if there was word of the availability of bread, milk, eggs, meat, sugar or rice, no matter what the cost. Basic food items were almost impossible to come by; many other items could only be found at certain stores, so people would spend considerable time going from store to store in search of items even as mundane as toilet paper and cat food. The worst of the food crisis has passed for many citizens, because the government used its vast income from oil reserves to import food. However, Venezuelan food security remains a problem, because food imports are bought with income that is mostly dependent on oil exports which are affected by err atic fluctuations in world oil prices. Why does Venezuela, a nation that is rich in both oil reserves and arable land, have such difficulties providing its people with food? Venezuela today is a very politically divided nation and the issue of food scarc ity has also become polarized. Members of the government and their supporters see the causes of Venezuelas food insecurity quite differently than those who oppose the government. This latter group includes many agricultural producers and business owners. Government officials often blame the shortages on increased consumption due to the greater purchasing power of the poorest classes. They also frequently blame the food deficiencies on hoarding by farmers and ranchers as well as middle men and shop owners The government has denied on a number of occasions that there is a problem with food production. According to some government spokesmen, the problem is not that less food is being produced, but rather that peoples food consumption has increased and that there are problems with distribution and speculation. Official

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10 statistics show that Gross D omestic Product (GDP) grew 10.3% in 2005 and again grew by a similar amount in 2006 and that during this period consumption increased by 16.3% ( Mrquez 2007). Othe rs note that government spending as a share of GDP has increased from 19% to 30% since 1998. The aforementioned have increased the consumption capacity of lower income Venezuelans and caused demand to outstrip the supply of goods (Sugget, 2008). Even Venez uelas president, Hugo Chvez personally argues that while food production has not decreased in any way, it is peoples food consumption that has increased. This statement is further supported by the Venezuelan Chamber of Commerce which reported that cons umption in the country more than doubled from U.S. $24 billion in 2004 to U.S. $52 billion in 2007. The Chamber also claimed that the poorest 58% of the population experienced a 130 % increase in its consumption capacity (Sugget, 2008). Table 1.1 is an exam ple of the increase in consumption of poultry and eggs since 2000. Another reason behind the increase in consumption has been the establishment of Mercal stores, which are subsidized markets that sell food at prices that are 39% below market prices (El Un iversal, May 4, 2006). To make up for the shortage of food, the government has increased food imports, which has somewhat alleviated the problem, but not solved it. Many consumer items are still difficult to find and often expensive. The government also points to the issue of food hoarding and the illegal transshipment of products to Colombia. In fact, Gustavo Moreno, the president of FEDEAGRO (La Confederacin Nacional de Asociaciones de Productores Agropecuarios; The National Confederation of Associations of Agricultural Producers), has on various occasions mentioned food smuggling as one of the major problems affecting Venezuelas food security (Hernndez June 28, 2007). Because of

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11 government price controls on food, many store owners withhold merchandi ze from the shelves and producers stockpile inventory in hopes of getting better prices for them at a later date or in Colombia. To combat food hoarding and contraband, the government began an initiative, The Food Sovereignty Plan (Plan de Soberania Alimentaria). In January 2008 alone, the government seized close to five thousand metric tons of food. Most of the food seized was in the states of Zulia and Tchira, which border Colombia. According to Fredy Alonso Carrion, a general in Venezuelas National Guard, most of the food that is hoarded and subsequently smuggled tends to be rice, powdered milk, sugar, chicken, pasta, oil, and corn flour ( Nederr, 2007). Those in opposition to the government, however, see the problem of food scarcity differently. They contend there is in fact a decrease in agricultural output, especially in the areas of meat and dairy production. According to CAVILAC (Cmara Venezolana de Industrias Lcteas; The Venezuelan Chamber of Dairy Industry) milk production decreased by 13.3 between 1996 and 2006 (Gui a.com.ve, 2007). Many ranchers ask that if production has not fallen, then "why has the government had to resort to importing over 40% of Venezuelas food?" Moreover, why have official production figures for national meat and mil k production not been released since 2007? ( Interview with Ruben Barbosa, Maracaibo, Venezuela, July 12, 2009). According to a 2008 report from Venezuelas Central Bank (Banco Central de Venezuela), food imports in 2008 increased by 47% from 2007. In 2007 the imports had increased by 26% (Hernndez, 2009). FEDENAGAs ( Federacin Nacional de Ganaderos de Venezuela) president, Genaro, said that a decline in meat production has been apparent since 2007. Moreover, he said that in 2008 production fell 8.6 % fro m the amount that was produced in 2007 (Contreras, 2008). He explained that the cattle

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12 slaughtered in industrial slaug hter houses represents about 80% of the meat produced in Venezuela. While in March 2006,150,000 head of cattle were sent to these slaughter houses, in March 2008 only 76,000 heads of cattle were processed ( Cadena Global May 22, 2008). The production of certain agricultural items may have improved in the past couple of years, but according to FEDENAGA and FEGALAGO meat and milk production, t wo of the areas of chronic shortages, have fallen by about 50 % and does not show any signs of recovery. According to agricultural producers, the problems with production are twofold. Firstly, they blame the fall in production on an increase in crime that affects them on a personal and a professional level and secondly they note the political insecurity and detrimental government policies. The opposition specifically criticizes government policies such as price caps on many basic food items. Agricultur al producers insist that due to the low prices imposed by the government on certain food items, it costs more to produce them than what producers receive, and thus they must operate at a loss. Another symptom of this dysfunction, which the opposition clai ms is further hampering food production, is the governments policy of increased food importation. The most greatly criticized policy, by far, is the agrarian reform. The Law on Land and Agrarian Development (Ley de Tierras y Desarrollo Agrario) was passed in November 2001 and its main provisions include a ceiling on the amount of land any one person can own, the taxing of unused land, and the redistribution of land to the poor. The initial ceiling on farm size was 5,000 hectares of low quality land or 100 hectares of good quality land. This, however, was changed in 2005, and the ceiling for good quality land is now 50 hectares. The law has been amended several times and since 2005 the government may provide peasants with cartas agrarias, which gives peasants usufruct rights to any

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13 land they deemed to be unproductive before the expropriation of a farm is officially complete. That is, peasants can make use of the land and earn income from it while its legal ownership is being decided. The main institution that is in charge of carrying out and overseeing the land reform is the National Land Institute (INTI). It is to this organization that peasants take their claims against land owners and receive permission to invade lands ( Ramachandran, 2006). Although the two sides of the political debate differ on the causes, they both seem to agree on the fact that there is indeed a problem. Agriculture has never been given a priority in Venezuela, a country in which oil seems to run freely and costs less than potable wat er. Agricultural producers and the Chvez government are both worried about the food security of the country. Although the current government denies any decline in food production, it obviously is very preoccupied with providing sufficient supplies and food for the populace. The idea of food security, if not food sovereignty, is very much at the forefront of the presidents speeches and policy. Here it is important to distinguish between the concepts of food sovereignty and food security. Food sovereignt y is a concept developed by La Via Campesina, an international social movement that focuses on the demand for social justice for small and medium farmers, landless workers and indigenous people. It promotes fairer economic relationships nationally and internationally. Among their main concerns are the preservation of natural resources, sustainable agricultural production and food sovereignty. They define food sovereignty as: T he RIGHT of peoples, countries, and state unions to define their agricultural and food policy without the dumping of agricultural commodities into foreign countries. Food sovereignty organizes food production and consumption according to the needs of local communities, giving priority to production for local consumption. Food soverei gnty includes the right to protect and regulate the national agricultural and

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14 livestock production and to shield the domestic market from the dumping of agricultural surpluses and low price imports from other countries. Landless people, peasants, and small farmers must get access to land, water, and seed as well as productive resources and adequate public services. Food sovereignty and sustainability are a higher priority than trade policies (La Via Campesina, Accessed 2009). Although Chvez agrees on cert ain issues with Via Campesina, such as opposing the use of vegetable materials for energy production, it will be shown that his policies do not conform to all of the movements ideals. Chvez s policies do include a land reform and various forms of land redistribution; however, these are not the only requirements for food sovereignty. The main shortfall is that the government of Chvez does not protect Venezuelas agricultural production, and imports massive amounts of food, to the detriment of many agricul tural producers. However, it can be argued that the importation of food is the governments policy to assure food security, if we define food security as the availability of food for all Venezuelans. In this thesis I will argue that Venezuelas problem with food availability is caused by many different factors, some of which are historical. The problems that both sides claim are causing food scarcity, including crime, lower production, increased consumption and widespread profiteering, are all contribut ing to this problem. The crisis, however, is intensified by the conflict between the two opposing sides, the Chvez government and the agricultural producers, especially the cattle ranchers. The two sides fail to recognize the legitimacy of the other and are generally unwilli ng to work together; making the crisis in food production and availability a political football, instead of a problem that affects the nation as a whole and needs to be solved cooperatively. The thesis is divided into six chapters. C hapter 2 presents an overview of Venezuelas political history. In it I describe Venezuelas political divisiveness, Chvez s rise and how politics may affect Venezuelas food Productions today. In Chapter 3 I

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15 describe Venezuelas ubiquitous issues with cr ime, which affect, among other things, ranchers ability to supply cattle and meat and peoples faith in the Venezu elan government. In Chapter 4 I provide background on Venezuelas agricultural history. Agricultural development has long been neglected in t he country, and many of the issues affecting food availability today have been caused, or at least fueled, by that neglect. In this chapter I also provide some background on the State of Zulia, where I carried out my field research. This state was chosen because it is one of the countrys major areas of agricultural production, it contains a strong cattle ranchers lobby that is very much at odds with the national government, and it is located on the border with Colombia. Sharing a border with Colombia makes the state even more vulnerable to crime, especially in the form of kidnappings, and its location gives rise to illicit cross border ac tivity. Chapter 5 presents an analysis of the main issues affecting f ood availability and Chapter 6 contains my concludi ng remarks. This thesis is based on a review of secondary sources in Venezuela, a newspaper survey and formal interviews with cattle ranchers in the State of Zulia, Venezuela. The aim of the newspaper research was to compile data on crime and kidnappings as well as on government confiscation of property. I relied mainly on four newspapers, two national ones based out of Caracas, El Nacional and El Universal, and two from the state of Zulia, Panorama and La Verdad. The interviews with cattle ranchers were obtained through a snowball sample. That is to say, I asked my initial interviewees to provide me with contacts to other cattle ranchers who would be willing to be interviewed. I obtained eleven formal interviews. All of the names of those interviewed hav e been changed for their safety and the safety of their families.

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16 Table 11 Venezuelas poultry and egg consumption (Kilograms/Number per Capita) Year Poultry Meat Eggs 2000 24.20 98.50 2001 27.10 111.04 2002 30.32 130.98 2003 23.46 116.13 2004 29.00 112.00 2005 31.00 130.00 2006 33.00 133.00 2007 34.00 140.00 2008* 34.50 142.00 Source: FENAVI Note: Estimates Denoted by*

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17 CHAPTER 2 POLITICS: EITHER YOU ARE IN OR YOU ARE OUT Today, Venezuela is an inc redibly divided nation. The political fault lines are extremely deep and volatile. Since the election of Hugo Chvez in 1998 Venezuelas landscape has been marked by angry demonstrations by those in the political opposition. Those who are proChvez and t hose who are against him have formed two camps in which the members of each express complete hatred for the other. Venezuela has been divided among political and class lines throughout its history, but these divisions did not produce the open hatred that i s evidenced today. The lines divide those who have access to the government, and the economic benefits and opportunities that accompany that access, and those who do not. In this chapter I provide some background on the political system of Venezuela. I h ope to show how politics and social inclusion and exclusion have worked historically in the country and how they have changed since the emergence of Hugo Chvez It is important to understand these aspects of Venezuela, because those who have controlled or had influence in the government have been the primary ones to benefit socially and economically. When Hugo Chvez took over, he upset the established order and subsequently those who previously had influence lost it. Cattle ranchers form part of this group of people who lost influence and power and they now see themselves as a group that is marginalized by the government. The political parties that would come to dominate the Venezuelan political landscape for more than a half a century were created in t he 1940s. The Comit de Organizacin Poltica Electoral Independiente: Partido Social Cristiano (COPEI: Committee of Independent Electoral Political Organization:Social Christian Party) and Accin Democrtica (AD: Democratic Action) were the two most impor tant. COPEI was

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18 a Christian democratic party founded in 1946 with its strongest base in the Andean states of Tchira, Merida and Trujillo where the church was strongest. AD was founded in 1941 and claimed to represent the workers and the peasants (McCoy and Meyers, 2004). The Partido Comunista de Venezuela (PCV: Venezuelan Communist Party) and Unin Republicana Democrtica (URD: Democratic Republican Union) were two other important parties that were formed at this time. During this period parties were not institutionalized and all of the parties, with the exception of the PCV, came to mirror each other. They had similar platforms and worked in such similar ways that people had a difficult time distingui shing between them (McCoy and M yers, 2004). On January 23, 1958, Marcos Prez Jimnez, president of Venezuela since 1952, was ousted by a movement that encompassed the major political parties, student movements, unions, the Catholic Church, the private sector and a major portion of the armed forces. Fears of another military dictatorship encouraged the formation of a pact between the major political forces in the country. In October 1958 an accord was reached and signed between AD, COPEI and URD. The pact, which became known as el Pacto de Punto Fijo (The Punto Fijo Pact) since it was signed at Rafael Calderas home Punto Fijo, came to stabilize Venezuelan politics for the next forty years. In the pact the political parties agreed to defend the constitution and respect the right to govern by whichever par ty won the elections and they further agreed to oppose the use of force to remove the winning party. Another aspect of the agreement was that all parties would work together and no party would have complete control over the executive (McC oy and Myers, 2004).

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19 Following the signing of the aforementioned document, Romulo Betancourt of AD was elected president in 1958. By 1960 URD had abandoned the coalition, which gave way to the twoparty system that would characterize party politics in Venezuela until 1993. What is the importance of a political party for democracy? One of the most important aspects of democracy is that ordinary citizens are given a voice in the election of the government. In many contemporary democracies this voice, this representation, is achieved through channels that lead directly to the government. The main conduits are usually the political parties, which are the principal agents of representation. They achieve this by developing platforms, organizing around those platforms and promoting the election of individuals to the government (Hagopian, 1998). The party system itself is not only an indicator of the health of a democracy, but it also is a factor that influences the strength of a democracy. During the 1990s Venezuela experienced what many have come to call a collapse of the party system. For numerous years Venezuela was held as an example of a democratic success story because of its pacted democracy. However, the 1980s and 1990s began to see the decay of this system, as peoples support for and trust in the parties began to fall. In 1988 Carlos Andrs Prez was reelected to office, riding on the wave of success and popularity from his previous presidency. In early 1989, however Prez did an about face and announced many neoliberal policies and reforms. When Prez came to power, he encountered a huge economic crisis and he had to seek financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which then required Prez to implement austerity measures as a condition for f inancial assistance. Support of AD fell as protests and three days of riots in the largest cities of Venezuela, which became known as the

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20 Caracazo, rattled the nation (Dietz and Myers, 2007). Perezs party, which historically had held a center left ideolo gical position, had made a major change which its supporter s had not expected (Morgan, 2007). As calm was instituted again in the nation, many observers believed that political and social normalcy had returned. Ten months later, during regional and local elections, most voters continued to support AD and COPEI candidates. However, that same year in the industrial state of Bolivar the leftist party Causa R won the governorship. On a national level, the rate of vot er abstention reached almost 55% Both were i ndicators that all was not well in the political landscape (Dietz and Myers, 2007). On February 4, 1992 an attempted presidential coup shocked the nation. The attempt was led by Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chvez who was angered by the corruption character izing the Venezuelan government and its neoliberal economic policies. Although unsuccessful, the attempted coup was a reflection of the tensions within the nation and it foreshadowed things to come (Dietz and Myers, 2007). On November 27 of that same y ear a second unsuccessful coup, led by air force and naval units, fatally weakened the government of Prez, who was impeached the following May. As the support for AD continued to decline, neither the old left nor COPEI were able to bring disappointed Adec os (AD Supporters) into their ranks. In the late 1980s the old left began to decay and in the 1990s the influence of COPEI also declined. This was accelerated when Rafael Caldera abandoned his party and won reelection in 1993 as an independent (Morgan, 2007). His decision to seek the presidency independently of COPEI split the party, reinforcing previous internal struggles and tarnishing the groups image among most Venezuelans (Dietz and Myers, 2007). During his presidency he constantly tried to undermine the party he had helped to create in the

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21 1940s. The fighting amongst and within the various parties and a banking c risis that eliminated almost 60% of total national bank deposits undermined the already tenuous confidence that Venezuelans had in the party system (Dietz and Myers, 2007). The decline of both parties was so s wift that by 2003 fewer than 15% of citizens identified with either party (Morgan, 2007). The first hit to the political system came in the legislative elections of 1998, when COPEI and AD combine d received only 37% of the votes. In December of that year, Hugo Chvez was elected president signaling the collapse of the tradit ional party system (Morgan, 2007). There are various factors that sealed the fate of the two major political par ties in Venezuela. Their shifting ideology left many Venezuelans discouraged and lacking trust in the party system. Both the traditionally center left AD and the politically moderate COPEI began to champion a neoliberal approach, thus moving to the right of average Venezuelans. At that point, both parties lacked any meaningful distinction between each other (Morgan, 2007). Another problem facing the two political parties was a lack of ties between themselves and major sectors of the population. The tra ditional bases of the two parties were labor unions and professional associations. Members of these sectors, the most organized sectors of the population, were the only ones with an effective v oice in government (Morgan, 2007). However, in the 1990s it was the informal sector and unemployed sectors of the population that began to grow as the economy weakened. The political parties were either unable or unwilling to incorporate these growing sectors of society. Venezuela, along with Peru, was one of the only countries in the region that did not make any progress in alleviating poverty during the 1990s. In fact, absolute poverty grew (Planas, 2007). Poverty is concentrated in the population centers of

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22 Venezuela, due to the rapid urbanization that occurred begi nning in the 1960s. In 1990 more than half of the residents of Caracas were classified as impoverished. In other urban centers more than 70% of the population was considered to be impoverished (McCoy and Meyers, 2004).Most of the urban poor live in shantyt owns on the outskirts of the cities and these neighborhoods are characterized by a lack of services and infrastructure, high levels of crime and a lack of political representation. As has been pointed out by scholars, political participation increases with income and education. Thus the political participation of the poor in Venezuela was a lot lower than for other sectors of society, and they were not considered to be important in elections by the political parties (McCoy and Myers, 2004). Another fact or that put the poor at a disadvantage was that they tended to support third parties of the left that were not part of the Punto Fijo Pact (Ibid). Another group that was traditionally excluded from political parties was women, who did not have a place in t he traditionally male ru n political system (Morgan, 2007). Thus it was increasing distrust of political parties, a lack of distinction between the dominant parties and a lack of incorporation of growing segments of society that encouraged people to abandon the old parties. Frustration with the choices available drove people to look for representation elsewhere. It is into this vacuum that Chvez steps in. Because of the collapse of the old system an outsider is given a chance. The election of Chvez along with the election of other progressive leaders elsewhere like Bolivias Evo Morales, is seen as part of a rise of a populist movement in Latin America. Roque Daniel Planas defines populist leaders as highly personalistic leaders who espouse anti establishment rhetoric and come to power with loose or no party support, preferring to appeal directly to the voters at the emotional, rather than the

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23 programmatic, level (Planas, 2007). Planas (2007) contends that the election of these leaders represents a rejection of the old parties, due to their unwillingness to undertake socioeconomic changes, and a rejection of neoliberal reforms. One of Chvez s first moves after becoming president was proposing, and having the electorate approve, a constituent as sembly. The 1999 constitution created a highly centralized state and a very strong national executive, thus replacing the representative, decentralized government in which the president had to share power with congress and the judiciary (McCoy and Myers, 2004). In 1999 Chvez was re elected to a six year term and from that point on his party gained many successes in the National Assembly and in state and local elections (Ibid). Chvez s party, the MVR (Movimiento V [Quinta] Repblica; Fifth Republic Movement), was created shortly after Chvez was pardoned by Rafael Caldera for his attempted coup in 1992. The party was a left wing, socialist party that was dissolved in 2006 in order for Chvez to unite all the parties that supported him into the United Social ist Party of Venezuela ( Encyclopedia Britannica, 2010 ). Venezuelas pacted democracy has been criticized as being a closed and corrupt system. The Pacto de Punto Fijo allowed for the alliance of two parties that could keep the power and the spoils of V enezuela to themselves. Others, however, claim that puntofijismo allowed for a stable democracy to exist in the nation for more than 40 years. Although there are those who hail Venezuelas democracy as exemplary, there is no denying that large portions of the population were underrepresented. The nation has faced years of inequality with a Gini coefficient that has stayed between .40 and .50 since the 1970s (Rodrigu ez, 2000). Poverty levels have been extremely high, especially since the collapse of the ec onomy. In 1993 the poorest fifth of

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24 t he population shared a mere 5.5 % of th e total national income and 2.7% of the population was living on less than ( U.S. D) $1 a day. In time these numbers have only grown worse. In 2003 the bottom fifth of the population shared 3.3% of the total national income and 18.5% of the population was living on less than $1 per day ( WHO 2008). During the Punto Fijo years Venezuelas anti poverty policies followed the cycle of the boom and bust in the economy. Beginning in the 1960s and 1970s many policies were implemented to help the lower classes. These policies included provisions for free public education, free healthcare, and there was even a land reform put into place. However, with the downshift in the economy in the 1970s many of these policies were either abandoned or were by necessity diverted to the middle class, which grew poorer during the economys bust (Wilpert, 2003). Since the election of Chvez political participation and inclusion has changed dramatically in the nation. Citizens are being incorporated and the representation of the masses is becoming more institutionalized through the parties created by Chvez (Planas, 2007). Inclusion has been an important factor in Chvez s appeal, but poverty alleviation has been the major item on his platform that the masses have responded to. Chvezs strategies for poverty alleviation have come in the form of plans and misiones that have sprung up across the country. The first of these was Plan Bolivar 2000 in which the government repaired churches, hospitals, clinics, homes and parks. The government also created various subsidized food markets and vaccinated thousands of children. Most of the elements of Plan Bolivar were carried out by the military and government official s who did not have an organized approach. As problems became evident around the country, the administrators tried to find solutions haphazardly with no determined plan of action (Wilpert, 2003).

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25 The mi siones are a set group of organizations aimed at alleviating various problems within the nation. Mision Robinson, Mision Ribas and Mission Sucre are aimed at primary, secondary, and higher education, respectively. The programs are aimed at expanding literacy rates and improving the quality of education. Many students are also given scholarships to attend universities and for many, once their studies are completed, the state owned oil company (PDVSA: Petroleos de Venezuela S.A.; Petroleum of Venezuela) a nd the electric company (CADAFE: Compaia Annima de Adm inistracin y Fomento Elctrico; Anonimos Company of Electrical Administration and Promotion) will place them in the mining, oil or energy sectors. Other misiones include Mision Barrio Adentro, which provides healthcare; Mision Mercal, which is about the f ormation of government subsidized food stores; and Mision Zamora, which is directed at land redistribution (Wilpert, 2003) These misiones have served millions of Venezuelans and have become very popular among the poor. However, they have been greatly cr iticized by those who say that the programs are poorly managed, lack transparency and are prone to corruption. Others criticize the closed nature of these programs, claiming that only those who are Chavistas, or supporters of the government, may benefit fr om them A great number of people that had been included by previous governments are now feeling shut out (Wilpert, 2003). As the Chvez government strives for the inclusion of those who were always on the fringes of government and of society, it also ac ts to exclude those sectors of society who have benefited in the past. Much of Chvez s rhetoric emphasizes the battle of the rich against the poor and the poor against the rich, a social war (Vsquez, 2009). and condemns those who are not in support of his government. The presidents animosity

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26 towards the escualidos (meaning weak, a name Chvez has given to those who oppose his government) is by no means hidden. The opposition, which has failed to unify into a strong political movement, consists of various groups that have been marginalized or feel their interests are threatened by the government. One of the most outspoken sectors of the opposition is the media. Many television channels, radio stations and newspapers directly oppose the government and use any opportunity to mobilize or speak out against it. The Chvez government has tried to counter this factor with the creation of government TV stations and programs that support the government. One such program is Al Presidente on which Chvez speaks to all Venezuelans and often announces governmental decisions, including the firing of public officials. Another way in which he has tried to counter the media was with the closing of RCTV, a station that was openly against him and his policies (Forero, 2007) Other major sectors that have been in opposition to the government have been the business and the agricultural sectors. Before the government took over PDVSA, the oil company led a general strike against the government in 2002. The strike was call ed in order to protest the appointment of a new board of directors who were seen as cronies of the president. The strike was joined by another group of the opposition, FEDECAMARAS (Federacin de Cmaras y Asociaciones de Comercio y Produccin de Venezuela; The Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce), Venezuelas largest business association ( BBC News April 9, 2002). Various other business organizations and agricultural producers are part of the opposition, including FEDENAGA and FEDELAGO. These latt er are associations of cattle producers who oppose the governments policy of property seizures for the land reform program, its

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27 price caps on food items and its lack of action against increased crime. They contend these are the major problems facing agric ultural production in Venezuela and that the government behaves irresponsibly by not addressing these issues. The opposition has tried to fight the government through both democratic and undemocratic means. On April 11 2002 there was an attempted coup against the president in which he was illegally detained. T he Supreme Court and the National Assembly had been dissolved and the 1999 constitution was declared null and void. Pedro Carmona, the president of FEDECAMARAS, was made interim president. A pro Chvez uprising soon developed in the streets and key sectors of the military, and even various members of the opposition refused to back the Carona government. The attempt only lasted 47 hours and proChvez segments of the military retook the Miraflores presidential palace without firing a shot and reinstalled Chvez as president. The attempted coup was publicly condemned by many Latin American nations and international organizations as undemocratic and illegal ( BBC News April 12, 2002; BBC News, April 13, 2002). In 2003 the opposition tried a new approach to remove Chvez from the g overnment. That year Smate (Join Up), a civilian voter rights organization aligned with the opposition, began collecting the signatures needed to activate the presidential recall provision in the 1999 Constitution. In August 2003 the organization presented 3.2 million signatures to the National Electoral Council (CNE), but these were rejected. The CNE said that many of the signatures were collected before the midpoint of Chvez's presidential term. The opposition protested against this, and they along, with international media organizations, began to claim that the government was punishing those who signed the petition. At the same time, proChvez citizens claimed that they

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28 were coerced by their employers to sign the recall petition (Miller, 2003). The issue remains a point of controversy among Venezuelans and international observers alike. The opposition, therefore, began to collect a new set of signatures in November 2003. They collected 3.6 milli on signatures in the span of four days. Riots erupted nationwide as Chvez claimed that fraud had taken place on the part of signature collectors. In addition, a member of the Venezuelan National Assembly representing the MVR ( Chvez s party), Luis Tascn, released the names and identification numbers of all those who signed the petition ( El Universal, April 21, 2005). The CNE, however, announced a recall referendum on June 8, 2004. Mobilization on the part of both camps began in earnest. The vote was held on August 15 of that year with a record number of voters. The recall was defeated with 59% of voters saying no ( BBC News August 16, 2004). The opposition claimed fraud, and they were support ed by critics such as economists Ricardo Hausmann of Harvard and Roberto Rigobon of MIT They said the results were false, because there were trails of fraud in the statistical record and they (along with many Venezuelans) claimed that the electronic voting machines could be easily tampered with ( Hausman and Rigobon, Accessed 2010). However, the election was overseen by the Carter Center and the Organization of American States and both concluded that the elections were fair and open. The European Union observers did not attend, claiming that the Chvez government had placed too many restrictions on their participation (De Cordoba and David, 2004). Since then, the opposition has continued to struggle against Chvez s gov ernment. In 2007 Chvez put to a vote a new constitutional reform that would extend his constitutional powers and allow a president to run for reelection indefinitely. Other

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29 changes proposed in the amendment included shortening the work day, creating a so cial security fund for informal laborers and promoting communal councils in which residents would decide on government spending. The opposition turned out in droves to oppose the referendum and won 51% to 49 % having their first victory against the president since he won the 1998 elections (Romero, 2007). The struggles continue between the Chvez government and the opposition. Political differences have escalated into heated animosity and hate. Venezuelans who were marginalized in the old system are being empowered and finally included. However, this is being done at the expense of other Venezuelan citizens, many who are leaving the country, trying to escape what they believe is a dangerous and hopeless situation. Property and land rights are not guaranteed to those who possess them. Crime is also increasing at an alarming rate. Critics of Chvez also point to his aggressive and violent rhetoric and his disregard for human rights and freedom of expression. One of the main international critics is Human Rights Watch. In a report titled A Decade Under Chvez the organization described how the Chvez government has encouraged and even engaged in discrimination against political dissidents. In the article they point out how government officials fired and blacklisted government workers, including those from the oil company (PDVSA). In addition, citizens have reportedly been denied access to social programs if they are not aligned with the gov ernment. The government has been openly discriminatory against the me dia exemplified by the closing of Radio Caracas Television, a channel utilized by the opposition, in 2007 ( Human Rights Watch, 2009). The government also has undermined civil society and labor unions, which seem to go against the basic ideals of socialism (Ibid).

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30 Venezuelas political system has long been characterized by exclusion and inequality. Although the countrys democracy was once considered the best example of a stable democracy in Latin America, the problems of poverty and exclusion that the system ignored caused the whole system to come crashing down. This opened a way for the rise of Hugo Chvez He was elected on a platform that promised to alleviate poverty and be inclusive for all sectors of Venezuelan society. However, what has happened is a reversal of roles. While the government is doing much to improve the lives of the poor and marginalized, it also is trying hard to exclude and marginalize groups that had previously had power. While the former group has much to gain and has great hopes in the plans of the government, the latter group has much to lose and is extremely fearful when contemplating their future.

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31 CHAPTER 3 CRIME IN VENEZUELA Welcome to the Bolivarian Venezuela of 2008, a 21st century socialist state where someone is kidnapped every 24 hours, someone is murdered every 60 minutes, and armed robbery or carjacking happens every 10 minutes, according to official Interior and Justice Ministry statistics (Caracas Gringo, 2008). Latin America has long been regarded as one of the most violent regions in the world. According to the World Health Organization deaths due to violence in Latin America a re 30% higher than they are i n the former Communist Bloc, 200% higher than they are in North America and the Pacific and 450% higher than t hey are in Western Europe (WHO, 2002; Soares and Naritomi, 2007). In 2006 the homicide rate for Latin America was 30 per 100,000 people (Ibid). The high rates of crime reported for Latin America, however, hide the considerable amount of heterogeneity that can be found in the region. While some nations such as Chile and Costa Rica have a stable or decreasing trend of crime rates, other nations such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela have rising trends in crime rates (Ibid). In Venezuela crime has steadily increased since the mid1990s. In 1960 the homicide rate was 10.88 out of 100,000 people and it rose slowly to 12.5 out of 100,000 by 1990. By 1995, however, it jumped to 20.7 and in 2003 the homicide rate nearly doubled to 42.1 (Crespo, 2006). I n 2008, Venezuela surpassed Colombia as the murder capital for the western hemisphere (ONeil, 2009). According to Foreign Policy Magazine the murder rat e in Venezuela has soared by 67% since President Hugo Chvez was elected in 1998, earning Caracas the t itle as the murder capital of the world ( Foreign Policy Magazine, May 2008). According to a report of the CICPC (Cuerpo de Investigaciones Cientficas Penales y Criminlisticas; Body of Scientific, Penal, and Criminological Investigations. ) there have been 101,141 homicides registered in the

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32 past ten years ( El Heraldo November 1, 2009). T he general knowledge of these numbers increases the fear felt by average Venezuelans throughout the country. In fact, Venezuela has become so dangerous that it is const antly compared to Colombia, a nation that has long been regarded as one of the most violent in the world. In 2005 an Inter American Development Bank (IDB) survey revealed that 3.4% of adults in Caracas "said that a relative or they themselves had been kidnapped, while in Cali, one of the most dangerous cities in Colombia, this figure was only 1.4 per cent" ( Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, 2002). In 2008 Medelln, Colombia had a rate of 30 murders per 100,000 but Caracas has 130 homicides per 100,000 residents. In Venezuela most crimes involve drugs, domestic violence, homicides, personal injuries, property crimes, smuggling, cattle rustling and kidnappings ( Overseas Security and Advisory Council 2008). Many of the crimes entail cross border issues with Colombia. Most are violent crimes, committed by more than one person, and they involve the use of firearms. In fact, a special report written by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2005 ranked the country as number one in the world in deaths caused by firearms ( 22.15 per 100,000 people) (Ibid.) Kidnappings have increased exponentially, especially in the western part of the country that borders Colombia. In 1998 there were 50 registered kidnappings. In cont rast, in 2007 there were 382 registered kidnappings ( McDermott, 2008). The State of Zulia, which is the focus of this research, is one of the areas that is most distressed by crime. Because of its nearness to Colombia, it is greatly affected by the guer rilla war and associated kidnappings by both Colombian and Venezuelan rebels. The state, especially its urban centers, is also replete with organized crime and, therefore, instances of violence are high. In 2009 the CICPC registered 1, 528 homicides

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33 for the year in the state of Zulia alone; 916 of those homicides took place in t he state capital of Maracaibo. According to many observers these numbers demonstrate that Maracaibo is one of the most dangerous cities in Latin America (Bastidas, 2010). By November of 2009 the regional authorities declared the state to be one of the most dangerous in Latin America saying that homicides had increased by 45% since 2008. According to the CICPC most of the crimes were violent in nature and involved the use of firearms (Riera, 2009). Many of the crimes were due to gang violence, however, according to the chief of the CICPC, Csar Gmez, in Maracaibo many tend to be violent out in the streets and violent with their families. Some of the crimes were crimes of passion and v iolence between family members as well (Bastidas, 2010). T he factors that have led to an increase in crime in many countries in Latin America are similar. These include a great degree of social inequality, civil wars and armed conflict, low and/or negativ e rates of economic growth, unemployment, drugs and arms trafficking, organized crime, low effectiveness of the police and the criminal justice system, the age structure of the population and a culture of violence. This culture is promoted by the media, the police, private security forces and in some cases even the government. Civil wars and conflicts around the world bring with them increasing amounts of violence and criminality. Although Venezuela itself is not experiencing a civil war, the conflict bet ween the government and the guerrillas in Colombia has spilled over across the border. The FARC ( Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia; t he Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the ELN ( Ejrcito de Liberacin Nacional; The National Liberation Army) are two guerrilla groups that have used violence, crime and kidnapping to pressure the Colombian government for political

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34 concessions ( BBC News December 23, 2009) In the past few years, under the leadership of Colombias president, Alvaro Uribe, the Colombian military has been successful in pushing the guerrillas farther from the major population centers of Colombia. That, along with a decrease in their access to the drug trade, has forced the rebels to operate from bases in Venezuela and Ecuador where they are involved with extortions and kidnappings in order to finance their operations (Farrel, 2008). The quality of governance, which includes the functioning of the police and justice systems, has been shown to affect the degree of violence in a country. Fajnz ylber, Lederman and Loayza (1998) found that arrest rates for homicides had a significant negative effect on the homicide rate. Sanjuan (1998) suggested that a sense that justice depended on socioeconomic class was an important factor in the emergence of a culture of violence among marginalized youths in Caracas, Venezuela. In terms of governance, social protection by the state is also an important factor for the level of violence in a nation. A study by Pampel and Gardner (1995) concluded t hat strong national institutions for social protection had a negative effect on homicide rates. Another study by Messner and Rosenfeld (1997) examined the efforts of various governments to shield vulnerable populations from market forces. They concluded that higher welfare expenditures were associated with decreased homicide. The age structure of a population seems to coincide with the degree of criminality as well. Countries with younger populations seem to have a higher degree of criminality than nation s with older populations. Youths also seem to be the most affected by violence in many nations. According to the 2002 World Report on Violence and Health, Latin America has the highest number of youth homicides with a rate of 12 or more homicides per 100,000 people ( World Health Organization, 2002).

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35 According to various studies, including the 2002 WHO World Report, a culture of violence seems to be growing and becoming consolidated in many areas of the world. The report points to various studies that link the introduction of television to increased forms of violence (World Health Organization, 2002). Another study that supports a culture of violence theory is by Bedoya Marin and Jaramillo Martinez (1991) that describes how low income youth in the barr ios of Medelln Colombia, are influenced by a culture of violence in the society at large and in their communities in particular. According to the authors there seems to be a growing acceptance of easy money and its acquisition, which usually comes from involvement in the drug trade. These same facts are evident in Venezuela, where news reports and other media are replete with graphic and violent images. Moreover, the government contributes to this mind set by encouraging a war between classes In a speech given late June 2009 Chvez stated that there was a social war in Venezuela and that he was on the side of the poor and that he would have nothing to do with the rich. He also advised the middle class to pick sides and said he hoped they would pick they would pick the side of the people ( El Universal, July 1, 2009). These factors are intensified by a climate of political animosity in which government supporters and opposition groups are extremely divided and antagonistic. According to the government, it is doing everything in its power to combat crime and it attributes increased crime rates to a sick and materialistic society. Meanwhile, those in the opposition blame Chvez and his government for allowing criminal ac tivity to exist with impunity. Acco rding to various surveys and studies, crime and crime victimization rank among one of the most important concerns for Latin Americans. In Venezuela, it ranks

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36 as the number one concern of citizens (Soares and N aritomi, 2007). The Observatorio Venezolano de Violencia performed a study in February 2007 on interpersonal violence and citizen perceptions of insecurity. It was a survey of people 17 years of age and older who lived in urban centers throughout Venezuela. In the study they found that residents in four out of every 10 homes surveyed were victims of a crime in 2006. Homicides occurred the most on the weekends and twice as often they happened at night as opposed to during the day. Most of the homicides were carried out by people acting in groups (generally three or more individuals). Interestingly enough, three out of every four acts of violence were carried out by people unknown to the victim. Violent robberies occurred 11 times more often than homicides did. Six out of every ten victims did not report crimes other th an homicides. 59% of respondents said they did not go to the authorities because they believed that nothing would be done about the crime and 16 % of respondents said they did not go to the authorities for fear of reprisals. Who is affected by crime and violence in Venezuela? The short answer is everyone. Both rich and poor live in fear of victimization every day. A 35year old domestic worker and mother of seven living in a barrio in the outskirts of Maracaibo, describes life in her barrio as a place of constant fear. You have to watch everyone around you and watch where you are going. I go home on the bus and have to be careful because they can rob me on the bus! I am poor and I dont have a lot, but they will still put a gun or a knife in my face to take whatever I have. When its dark, you have to lock yourself in the house. Its too dangerous (Interview with Laura, Maracaibo, Venezuela, June 20, 2008). Once outside of the slums, however, it does not get much better. Being out on the streets, even during the day, can be dangerous. Jean Carlo Altamira, an 18 year old

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37 college student and resident of Maracaibo, had his car stolen in May 2008. He went out with three friends to pick up some books from another friends house at 1 P.M. He stopped his car in front of his friends house to ring the intercom, when three armed youths came up to him and his friends who remained in the car. They took Jean Carlos car, all of their wallets, phones, watches and even their shoes. I was lucky, Jean Car lo says, they could have shot me or kidnapped me. At least they just took my things and left (Interview with Jean Carlo Altamira, Maracaibo, Venezuela, June 25, 2008). Many stories, however, do not end as fortunately. Countless numbers of people have been kidnapped or killed in such situations. Such is the story of Ivn Antonio Rosario Andrade, a 21 year old who was murdered at gunpoint as he arrived home in the company of his mother (Palmar, 2010). According to both scholars and people living in situat ions of high risk the costs, both physical and emotional, of crime are extremely high. Perceptions of crime affect peoples personal and productive lives. Not only are countries deemed as dangerous less likely to receive foreign investment, but nationals a re less likely to invest within the country and planning horizons are much lower. There is a loss of human capital because of deaths, incapacitation due to violence, and incarceration. Material costs for increased security, replacement of destroyed or stolen properties, and expenditures on criminal justice and crime prevention are all high. Some studies attribute direct costs and expenditures on criminal justice and crime prevention as being around 3.6% of Gross Domestic Product for Latin America as compar ed to around 2.1% of the GDP per year for the United States (Londono and Guerrero, 1999). A 1992 study in the United States estimated the direct and indirect costs of gunshot wounds to be U.S. $126 billion and an additional estimated U.S. $51 billion for cutting or stab wounds (World Health Organization, 2002). These costs are at times

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38 difficult to ascertain, especially in developing nations. However, these figures are useful in giving a general idea of how much crime can actually cost a nation. A 199697 study sponsored by the Inter American Development Bank on the economic impact of violence in Latin American countries showed that health expendi tures related to crime were 1.9% of GDP in Brazil, 5.0 % in Colombia, 4.5% in El Salvador, 1.3 % in Mexico, and 0. 3 % in Venezuela. Since that year, however, the homicide rate in Venezuela has nearly doubled. What kind of economic impact does crime have in Venezuela today? Overall, that is a difficult and multifaceted question to answer. However, we can narrow the s cope of the question a little more, and try to answer how crime may affect one sector of society in particular. For agricultural producers in general, and the cattle ranchers I interviewed in particular, crime has had a devastating impact on food production, an issue that we will look at further in Chapter 5.

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39 CHAPTER 4 THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR OF VENEZUELA AND ZULIA Venezuelas agricultural sector since the colonial period has been characterized by an unequal distribution of land. Once Venezuela gained it s independence from Spain, a pattern of high land concentration continued and was exacerbated as various military leaders, such as Juan Vicente Gmez (19081935), distributed land among their supporters and amassed huge properties for themselves (Wilpert, 2005). During the Gmez dictatorship a major shift took place in Venezuela. Oil was discovered and became the countrys largest export, relegating agriculture to the background. By the end of Gmez s rule, agriculture only accounted for 20 % of GDP, but it still e mployed about 60% of the workforce. During this period land tenure was still hi ghly concentrated. In 1937, 4.8% of land owners owned 88.8% of all the land while the 57.7% consisting of small land owners occupied 7% of the land (Wilpert, 2005). From the 1930s on oil came to have such a prominent role in the national economy that it caused the phenomenon known as Dutch Disease, which fuels inflation by increasing peoples purchasing power and making imports cheaper than domestic products (Wilpert 2005). Due to the oil boom and the decline of agriculture, people moved to the cities in large numbers looking for jobs. The rate of urbanization was greater than the cities could accommodate, causing the growth of large slums like the ones that still remain on the outskirts of Caracas. By the 1960s only 35% of the population was living in rural areas and by 1990 that figure had decreased to 12% (Wilpert, 2005). The Agrarian Reform of 1960 In 1960, shortly after the introduction of a liberal democracy, t he president, Romulo Betancourt, Approved the Agrarian Reform Law of 1960, setting up the National

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40 Agrarian Institute. The basic premise of the law was that property should serve a social function (arts. 2 3, 1923). Under the law, any land holding that was not completely serving its social functions could be subject to expropriation and redistribution. This law applied to both public and private holdings (Eder, 1960). For land to be exempt from expropriation it had to be directly cultivated by the owner who had to abide by conservation and labor laws. Idle lands and those cultivated by nonowners (sharecroppers, tenant farmers, etc.) were subject to extremely high taxation. Holdings also were limited to 150 hectares for good quality land or 5,000 hectares of low quality land. The law also included, but did not fully describe the implementation of legislation in other areas needed for a true agricultural reform including incentives for efficient utilization, education, schools, roads, warehouses, marketing facilities, housing, irrigation and drainage systems, etc. The law also incorporated regulations on the appropriation and use of water (Eder, 1960). The National Agrarian Institute was in charge of making sure that farmers were in compliance with the law If adjustments were not made on the part of the owner, expropriation proceedings would be instituted in the court system. Expropriated lands were paid for partly in cash (up to 100,000 bolivars U.S. D $30,000), but most of the payment was made in the for m of bonds (Eder, 1960). Allotments of redistributed land could be made to individuals or to cooperatives. If a beneficiary was needy, the land could be given free of charge, but most of the land had to be purchased for the amount of money that the Nationa l Agrarian Institute originally paid when it acquired it (Eder, 1960). The Agrarian Reform Law also included a law of agricultural contracts and leases of rural lands (Title VII, arts. 140153). Tenants were given the option to purchase the

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41 land they wor ked from its owner. Certain provisions in contracts, such as having to sell crops to land owners or receive their inputs or machinery solely from them, and the payment of rents in advance, were voided. The landlord was also obligated to pay for betterments made by tenants; a tenant could not be evicted unless such action was approved by the institute. In addition, he law stated that the government could arbitrate agrarian conflicts that were harmful to the community (Eder, 1960). The agrarian reform of 1960 distributed land to over 200,000 families over a 20 year period. Most of these adjudications took place in the first years of the program, because succeeding presidents ignored the institute and the implementation of the law. Therefore, the successes of the program were moderate. During the oil boom of the 1970s Dutch Disease intensified and agriculture no longer was profitable. Nearly onethird of the agrarian reforms beneficiaries dropped out of t he program. Moreover, around 90 % of the beneficiaries never actually received legal title to their lands (Ramachandran, 2006). Although the agrarian reform did have some achievements, land concentration continued to be a problem. In 1997 it was estimated that 5% of land owners were in possession of 75% of th e land while 75 % of land owners were in possession of only 6% of the land (Wilpert, 2005). Not much attention has been given to agriculture in Venezuela. Policies actually implemented have tended to alternate between deregulation and excessive government intervention (U.S. Library of Congress, Accessed 2010). Land is highly concentrated, yet much of it is unused. Agricultural production has generally focused on the domestic market, but has not always fulfilled all of the domestic need. Beginning in 2003, the government has increasingly had to import larger quantities of food. As Table 4.1 shows, production in areas such as meat and milk has been decreasing.

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42 Chvez s Agrarian Reform When Chvez took over the presidency in 1998, he began to focus much of hi s attention on Venezuelas agrarian sector. One of Chvez s first acts when he took office was the passage of the 1999 constitution ( Wilpert 2005). Articles 304 through 307 of the constitution put forward a set of principles for standards of action when i t involving land. First, it states that the strategy for rural development should be based on the promotion of sustainable agriculture. Second, the state has to guarantee food security. Third, the state has to promote financial and commercial measures and even interventions in order to achieve sustainable food security. Fourth, the state shall promote the well being of the people and generate employment. Fifth, the state is to compensate for the disadvantages to those who are involved in agricultural production. Sixth, the constitution calls for institutional change, specifically in the countryside ( Ramachandran 2006). Article 307 of the constitution states: The predominance of large idle estates (latifundios) is contrary to the interests of society. Appr opriate tax law provisions shall be enacted to tax fallow lands and establish the necessary measures to transform them into agricultural productive units, likewise recovering arable land. Farmers and other agricultural producers are entitled to own land in the cases and forms specified under the pertinent law. The state shall protect and promote associative and private forms of property in such a manner as to guarantee agricultural production. The state shall see to the sustainable ordering of arable land t o guarantee its foodproducing potential. The constitution thus makes clear that latifundios are against the form of development that the government will be promoting and that it is the responsibility of the state to promote agricultural development (Wil pert, 2005). In November 2001 a land reform law was passed that went into effect in December 2002 and allowed Chvez to pass a set of 49 decrees. The law and a redistribution program are known as Mission Zamora, named in Honor of Ezequiel

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43 Zamora a 19th century peasant leader. The law states that large land owners are entitled to their land, but it limits the size of their holdings. It also requires for land to be productive or it is liable to be taxed or expropriated. Expropriations, however, must be com pensated at fair market value ( Wilpert 2005). Under the law the National Land Institute (INTI) is in charge of deciding how much land any one person or company can hold and it also decides whether land is being used appropriately or not. (Wilpert, 2005). Additionally, the Ministry of the Peoples Economy (MINEP), the Ministry for Science and Technology (MCyT), and the Ministry for Food (who set up the MERCAL stores) are all involved in the agrarian reform (The Marxist 2006). The limits on private land holdings set by the INTI are 50 hectares of good quality land and 3,000 hectares of low quality land. Any citizen who is either single or the head of a household and is between the ages of 18 and 25 can apply for a parcel of land. In many cases cooperat ives have also been set up (Wilpert, 2005). In June of 2003 the president of INTI at the time, Ricardo Leonett, stated in an interview that there were 19 million hectares of land suitable for cultivation in Venezuela. He also stated that 31,437 individual or collective land charters had been issued since the start of the agrarian reform ( Mrquez 2009) In 2006 the numbers given were a little different. The president of INTI at that point in time, Richard Vivas, t estimated Venezuela had about 30 mi llion hectares of arable land. He said about 19 million of those hectares were either owned by the state or controlled by INTI. He also said 11 million hectares were owned privately, yet 10 million of those hectares were under dispute ( Ramachandran 2006).

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44 The State of Zulia The state of Zulia takes up around 63,100 square kilometers of Venezuela. It is considered to be a very important stat e due to the fact that about 80% of the nations petroleum comes from there. Zulia is also a very important agricultur al center (Gobierno en Linea). An estimated 34% of the states agricultural land is used for crops, 41% for cattle ranching and the rest are mixed systems and forestry. The states cattle indust ry is very important; Nearly 70% of the nations meat and dair y production takes place in Zulia. About 12% of the nations crop production also takes place in Zulia. Most of the agricultural production takes place in the southern part of the state, the area known as el sur del lago, Which is only a few hours outside of Venezuelas second largest city, Maracaibo ( tuzulia.com accessed 2010). The State of Zulias cattle ranchers are extremely well organized and the local ranchers association, FEGALAGO ( Federacin de Ganaderos del Lago de Maracaibo), is closely tie d to the national ranchers association (FEDENAGA). The ranchers in this region oppose Chvez s agrarian reform. In fact, the agrarian reform is without a doubt the most important issue of contention between the cattle ranchers and the Chvez government. According to FEDENAGA, in 2009, 590 estates have been confiscated by the National Land Institute since 2006. Zulia is the state that has the largest number of confiscations, with a total of 187 confiscations out of the total 590(Tovar, 2009). It is not surprising, then, that many ranchers in the State of Zulia cite legal insecurity and land tenancy as one of the biggest problems facing agricultural production. In Venezuela, agriculture has been put on the backburner since oil became the predominant source of income for the country in the 1930s. Policies have wavered back

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45 and forth, never guiding agricultural production to its maximum potential. Food has been imported, increasingly over the years, and agricultural activities have been left to those who could afford to participate in it as a pastime. Land has been concentrated in the hands of the wealthy and most of the population abandoned the countryside for the urban cities anyway. The government tried to correct this problem with a very progressive agrar ian reform in the 1960s, but it i s successes were moderate at best. Todays agrarian reform is a question of great dispute. It has caused a great amount of tension and fighting between agricultural producers, peasants, and the Venezuelan government. The reform has no doubt disrupted production, which is to be expected when such major changes take place. In the state of Zulia, where many large landowners are facing expropriations, the major problems of Venezuelas agricultural production are exemplifi ed. In the following chapter I will discuss these problems and how Venezuelas agricultural, political, and social history all affect the nations food security.

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46 Table 41 Venezuelas dry, whole milk production Market Year Production Unit of Measure Change 1993 72 (1000 MT) 7.46 % 1994 63 (1000 MT) 12.50% 1995 60 (1000 MT) 4.76 % 1996 52 (1000 MT) 13.3% 1997 48 (1000 MT) 7.69 % 1998 40 (1000 MT) 16.6% 199 9 35 (1000 MT) 12.5% 2000 38 (1000 MT) 8.57 % 2001 31 (1000 MT) 18.4% Source: FENAVI Note: Estimates Denoted by* Table 42. Venezuelas animal numbers, cattle production Market Year Production Unit of Measure Change 1993 2593 (1000 HEAD) 0.15 % 1994 2397 (1000 HEAD) 7.56 % 1995 2369 (1000 HEAD) 1.17 % 1996 3354 (1000 HEAD) 41.58 % 1997 2818 (1000 HEAD) 15.98 % 1998 2589 (1000 HEAD) 8.13 % 1999 2499 (1000 HEAD) 3.48 % 2000 2689 (1000 HEAD) 7.60 % 2001 2576 (1000 HEAD) 4.20 % Source: Index Mundi (Accessed 2010)

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47 CHAPTER 5 PROBLEMS AFFECTING F OOD SECURITY A 2007 CEPAL (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) report indicated that in that year Venezuela would enter it s fifth consecutive year of sustained growth. In 2001 experienced an 8.5% growth rate, one of the highest in the regi on (Carlson, 2007). This growth brought about an increase in the populations purchasing power of about 8 % annually from 2004 through 2007. Venezuela also shows a lower unemployment rate and one of the highest minimum wages in Latin America and since Chvez became president, it has also been one of the regions leaders in social spending. The government approved a budget of Bs. 137.5 billion ( U.S. $ 63.9 billion) for 2008 and 46% of that budget was for the purpose of social spending (Ibid.). In 2005 Datos Informativos Resources released a report on social indicators in Venezuela showing there has been a dramatic impoverishment over the pas t 20 years (Gidin, 2005). From 1984 to 2004 the share of Venezuelas poorest increased from 40 to 58% of the population. The number of middle and upper class Venezuelans decreased from 28% to 4 % During that s ame period unemployment rose 53% Although the economy began to grow in 2005, the small elites purchasing power was eroded (Ibid). However, for Venezuelas lowest classes, which make up 84% of the population, conditions have actually improved. In 2005 their income increased by 53% which c onstitutes an improvement of 33% after accounting for inflation. In addition, government social programs provide education, health and subsidized food (Ibid). Although the economic situation in Venezuela is troublesome for some and while others are finding sustenance from government programs, finding food in Venezuela is a problem that everyone is facing. In the previous chapters I have described the issues of political and social insecurity that affect Venezuelans and I also have described the

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48 agricultural background of the country. In this chapter I will describe specific problems that affect food availability within these larger issues. In this chapter I will analyze the problems that both the government and cattle ranchers have indicated as the reasons for a lack of food availability, drawing on my interviews with cattle ranchers in the State of Zulia. The chapter is organized into the following subsections: Food Hoarding, Price Controls, Imports and the Decline in Production. In each of these I assess the impact of each problem on the overall availability of food. Food Hoarding According to the Venezuelan government, the primary causes of food scarcity are food hoarding and contraband. The government blames the capitalists and those in the opposition with hoardi ng and smuggling in order to subvert the revolution. Those who engage in contraband and food hoarding do so in order to obtain better prices for items either at a later date or in other countries, especially in Colombia ( Reuters January 22, 2008) In ear ly 2008 PDVAL (Produccin y Distribucin Venezolana de Alimentos), a PDVSA food subsidiary, was created in order to fight food hoarding and contraband. PDVAL is now the direct distributor of various food items, including Leche Venezuela ( Venezuelan milk) a product made by a Venezuelan state agency. It also is in charge of distributing the large amounts of food imported by the government. PDVAL was organized by Venezuelas energy and oil minister and president of PDVSA, Rafael Ramrez with the help of the agriculture and food ministries, the Bolivarian missions, Mercal the armed forces and the electricity companies ( Venezuelanalysis.com, January 22, 2008).

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49 Chvez has spoken out against hoarding and smuggling and on many occasions has sent the military to fight those who engage in the illicit activities. In February 2008, the government decreed that it can take over grocery stores and food distributors caught hoarding. This, however, has backfired because it has caused many shop owners to keep smaller inventories for fear of being accused of impropriety. Shortly after Chvez s February announcement, Polar Foods (one of Venezuelas largest food companies) vice president, Ramn Carrizales, denied such accusations, assuring that the companys plants were producing at maximum capacity and that all of their food was being distributed properly. He even pointed to the seventy government inspections of the previous four months to substantiate his defense (Sugget, 2008). In 2009, however, Polar Foods and other com panies such as U.S owned Cargill would be affected by Chvez s policies ( Talqualdigital.com February 8, 2009). The impact that food hoarding and smuggling has on food availability is not minimal. In March of 2009 alone Venezuelas National Guard uncov ered more than 1.7 million kilos of food that was being hoarded ( Diario Crtico de Venezuela, 2009). The government has made great efforts to prevent this problem from occurring, even to the point of creating problems with neighboring Colombia. In October 2009 there were protests along the Colombian border by men and women who make a living taking food products and gasoline from Venezuela and Colombia ( La Verdad, March 10, 2009). Price Controls Critics of Chvez s policies affirm that the increase in food hoarding and smuggling, as well as the increase in food scarcity, in recent years is due to the implementation of price controls on basic food items. In 2003 the Venezuelan

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50 government instituted price controls after the oil strike of December 2002 and the PDVSAled workers lockout in January that year (Romero, 2007). This marked the beginning of the sporadic shortages of basic food items such as meat, milk and sugar. Agricultural producers and food distributors argue that the price controls prevent them from making a profit, especially after accounting for inflation (Romero, 2007). Sometimes the profit is just not large enough for retailers to buy and sell certain food products. This became the case with yellow cheeses, such as Gouda, Munster and America n cheeses, which were regulated beginning in February 2008. The mark up for a kilogram of Gouda cheese in 2008 was only 4 Bolivars. However, retailers still had to pay the personnel and purchase special paper and other items to sell the cheese. Therefore, they stopped selling such cheeses, which are now extremely difficult to find ( Contreras, 2008). To get around the problem of price controls, producers stopped producing the regulated items, which are the ones that make up the basic staples of the Venezuelan diet. In a conversation I had with the maid of my Venezuelan host, Laura, she complained about the scarcity of certain items that could not even be found in the Mercal stores. She said that cheap cuts of meat and basic white rice, items that are regulated, could not be found and instead people had to purchase fancy or enriched rice and cuts of meat that are not controlled. I live with 15 people in my house. That is a lot of people to feed and the rice that we used to eat every day is just too expensive. So now we just dont eat rice, she told me (Interview with Laura, Maracaibo, Venezuela, June 20, 2008). As mentioned before, in 2009 Chvez dealt a blow to food producers like Polar Foods and Cargill, specifically to rice producers. Chvez ordered tr oops to take over

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51 rice processing plants since they were accused of sidestepping the law. I will expropriate them, I have no problem with that and Ill pay them with bonds. Dont count on me paying them with hard cash, Chvez said about the rice producer s in a speech right before he sent out the troops ( Talqualdigital.com October 18, 2009). In order to control those who sidestep the law and ensure the production of the basic regulated items, Chvez has now established minimum quantities for the produc tion and distribution of basic food i tems. Under the new measure, 80% of the rice produced domestically must be the basic white rice controlled by government prices. 90 % of all cooking oil, sugar and coffee must also be of the variety that is controlled by the government (Grant, 2009). The governments hope is that these measures will increase food availability and contain costs. However, business leaders, food vendors and producers see this as an attack on their ability to make a profit. They contend the government does not take inflation into account and expects them to produce and sell at a loss, so many have stopped producing (Grant, 2009). Imports To combat food scarcity, the Venezuelan government has taken up the banner of food security, as oppos ed to food sovereignty, and has increased food imports. In 2008 and 2009 the government used its vast oil revenues to import and subsidize the cost of food. In 2008 the government imported 74,000 tons of food ( Hernndez 2008). The majority of milk and 60 % of the nations food is purchased abroad (Ibid). According to the Venezuelan Central Bank, Venezuela spent U.S. $ 7.5 billion on food imports, 79% more than in 2007. According to the Dutch Dairy Board, in 2008 Venezuela imported 170,000 tons more powdered milk than the 120,000 tons they

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52 imported in 2007. The board contends that Venezuela is the worlds largest market for powdered milk (Cited in Tovar, 2009). In 2008 the Venezuelan government spent U.S. $1 billion dollars on fresh and frozen beef, an inc rease of 103% from 2007 after adjusting for inflation (Tovar, 2009). Table 51 shows the increase in Venezuelas yearly food imports. The imports have been deemed necessary by the government. However, this level of imports is only possible because of the countrys large oil revenues and is unsustainable in the long run. Food producers also complain that in the short run, excess imports hamper their ability to find markets for what they do produce. They ask that the government take all the different actors into consideration when it comes to importing. Not only do excessive imports glut the markets, but when the government imports food it sells it at subsidized prices that Venezuelan producers cannot compete with (Valera, 2009). In April 2009 cattle ranc her Victor Aldana said on behalf of the small and medium sized cattle ranchers that milk producers in Venezuela are on the border of ruin. The ranchers protested the governments plan to import 70,000 tons of reconstituted milk to be consumed in three months. The ranchers fear their own milk production will have to compete with the sale of this milk that will be sold at extremely low prices through government supermarkets. The ranchers complain they will have to sell their milk at these low prices, which are less than half of the regulated milk price. In his speech, Aldana asked the president and other governing entities to fix the situation, saying that they do not ask for them to cease imports because they understand that such are necessary in order to fe ed the country. They want the government to pay closer attention and have greater communication with the producing sector so that

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53 imports do not become harmful to internal production. They contend that internal production has suffered from a lack of gover nment interest in and communication with the agricultural sectors in the country (FEDENAGA, April 8, 2009). Alberto, a third generation cattle rancher in Zulia, is one of those who believe that government imports are doing more to harm the country than help it. This government has turned into a government focused on imports. It seems that it is not interested in producing anything, because we producers do not support the government. We have been in opposition since the beginning and it is more convenient f or the government to have us struggle. The government does not want to see a strong cattle ranchers association that is in constant opposition to it. He ( Chvez ) wants us to fit his criteria, which is why he has set up parallel associations. In fact, he does not meet with us. He only meets with Bolivarian ranchers, those from GAVEN and COFAGAN, the ones who do not even own any property or produce any food. But us, the real ranchers, the ones with the land, with us he does not meet. Because we have always o pposed him (Interview with Alberto, Maracaibo, Venezuela, June 30, 2008). Albertos opinion is obviously extremely politicized; however, many agree with this view and it seems to be the official stance of the major ranchers associations. FEGALAGOs ( Federacin de Ganaderos de la Cuenca del Lago; The Federation of Cattle Ranchers of Lake Maracaibos Basin) president, Ruben Barboza, summed up the associations view on the Chvez s overall agricultural policies. In an interview in the newspaper, La Verdad, he complained that price caps and inflation affect consumers, debilitate national production and invite massive food imports. He said that While we have our farms in the ports, Venezuela will be a poor country, because it will not even be capable of being self sufficient, having the land and the men (to work it) ( La Verdad, January 7, 2009). The Decline in Production The Venezuelan government insists that Venezuelan agricultural production has not declined in the past few years. However, agricultural producers, especially cattle

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54 ranchers, have been extremely vocal about the problems in production and their decline. Organizations like FEDENAGA and FEDELAGO are extremely outspoken about the insecurity faced by agricultural producers in general, and cattle ranchers specifically. They are faced with personal insecurity that comes in the form of crime and violence, as well as political insecurity due to Chvez s policies and the agrarian reform. Crime and political insecurity have negative effects on producti on and on any type of economic activity in general. I believe that in Venezuela it is the fear, and not just crime and political insecurity in general, of these events that has the most effect on individuals and their behavior. As was demonstrated previous ly, there is no denying that in Venezuela crime is extremely high and that politically, the nation is unstable. However, the degree to which an individual fears what is happening in the nation depends largely upon their social and political position. Cattl e ranchers as a group believe that they have much to fear. In Venezuela meat and milk producers currently form part of the hated landed aristocracy. Cattle ranchers tend to have huge estates and come from wealthy families. However, ranching is not thei r main source of income. Many of them are doctors, lawyers, politicians and business owners for whom ranching is either a family tradition or an exciting pastime. For example, as noted by one of my interviewees: I am a rancher because my father was and s o was my grandfather before him. It is too difficult in Venezuela to make money off of this. Our production is not large enough, we dont have the soils and the climate. I am a rancher because I love it. I love the land and I love feeding my people (Interv iew with Luis Enrique, Maracaibo, Venezuela, June 12, 2008).

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55 In todays political climate this group of people, who for a long time were part of the political elite, are on the outside. Many form part of the opposition to the Chvez government. In fac t, the major and most influential group representing cattle ranchers, FEDENAGA founded in the early 1960s, is in outright opposition to the current government. According to its members, the government refuses to meet with them and disregards them. The government, in fact, created COFAGAN ( Con federacin Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos de Venezuela) as an alternative to FEDENAGA. Many ranchers (including those I interviewed) agree that being in opposition to the government hampers their ability to produce. They point to government policies that negatively affect their ability to produce, such as price caps on food, and the increased import of foods that competes with local production, and especially the agrarian reform. They contend that the problem wit h food availability is that production has declined because of personal insecurity that comes from crime and to political insecurity that comes from government policies. The Decline in Production Crimes Role In Venezuela kidnappings are on the rise and ranchers are one of the most affected groups. Personal insecurity and crime in Venezuela affect everyone, especially the wealthy. For ranchers, however, the case is extremely poignant when it comes to the case of kidnapping. According to the Caracas based newspaper El Universal (October 7, 2007), the CICPC, the Body of Scientific Penal and Criminal Investigation, claims that by the beginning of October 2007, 212 people had been kidnapped that year in Venezuela. FEDENAGA, the National Federation of Cattle Ranchers, gave a more conservative estimate, claiming that 177 people had been victims of kidnappings to that point, 67 of whom were agricultural producers. The reasons why they are a targeted

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56 group are simple. Many of them are well known in their communitie s and their wealth is apparent. Criminals can easily see how much land a rancher has and how many heads of cattle he owns and therefore can quickly estimate how much money a family may be willing and able to pay to rescue a loved one. Increasing the danger if the location of these properties in remote areas, where there are no police, allowing bands and rebel groups to organize easily and quickly. The areas that are most affected by kidnappings are on the western border of Venezuela where there are many vast, yet remote agricultural holdings. According to the BBC News (January 13, 2007), many of the kidnappings in the border states are believed to be linked to Colombian rebel groups, including the FARC, the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces. Many of thes e guerilla groups flee Colombia periodically and hide in neighboring Venezuelan states. The kidnappings, mostly of wealthy ranchers, are a way of raising revenue for food, clothing and the financing of many of their ventures. These groups also send letters to landowners and their families threatening to kidnap them if they do not make payments up front for their protection. Farmers and ranchers in these areas live in constant fear for their lives and the lives of their families. Many have had to change the way they live, as in the case of Juan Romero, a cattle rancher in the State of Zulia. He no longer lives on his ranch and has moved his family to the nearest city, visiting only occasionally. He no longer inspects his ranch daily because (He) could be ambushed quite easily on the farm. He also gives some insight as to how other ranchers in the area are responding to the increasing insecurity: Its true that the kidnappers have forced us to change our lives. Many of us have sold out and left. Others are hiring bodyguards to continue farming ( Morsbach, 2007).

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57 The effect that insecurity has on cattle ranchers and on their production of foodstuff is major. Fear of crime, even more than crime itself, dictates how they live their lives. Many spend considerable sums of money that otherwise could be invested into production on security, such as the hiring of body guards, buying of armored vehicles, buying of arms, etc. If these men or their family members are kidnapped, then sometimes they must sell all of thei r property and, if their lives are spared, then they are broke. This has a serious effect on production, because it reduces the number of producers. These men, in order to protect their lives, spend less and less time on their land, leaving the daily management to a manager or hired hand who may or may not be as attentive as the owner. Finally, what has become increasingly common is that ranchers stop producing. These ranchers either sell out or leave their holdings unproductive because the risk is too great. Fernando is a veterinarian, a consultant for animal production enterprises, and an agricultural producer himself. He agreed to talk to me about the overall production situation in Venezuela. However, he declined to talk much about his own business because of fear for his safety and that of his property. Fernando has been threatened by kidnappers. At the time of the interview he was fighting the expropriation of his lands. He already had ceded part of his holdings to the government, in hopes that he would be allowed to keep the rest. However, he told me that he had to go to Caracas at least once a month to meet with representatives of the INTI in order to stop the government from taking more of his property. He also sees himself as a political target. Fernando breaks down the problems with Venezuelan cattle production into two parts: personal insecurity that comes in the form of crime and violence and political insecurity that comes from government policy and action.

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58 We can say that insecurity is one of t he factors that at this moment has one of the biggest negative effects on the production of food in Venezuela. We can talk about insecurity as personal insecurity, as judicial insecurity, which is the most important one, and as industrial insecurity of goods and services (Interview with Fernando, Maracaibo, Venezuela, July 6, 2008). Fernando, as well as other ranchers I interviewed, pointed out how personal insecurity and fear of life are affecting not only ranchers, but all Venezuelans. Ranchers historic ally have been affected by crime, especially in the form of kidnappings. Fernando said that crime can be separated into common crime, which is just the robber who breaks into your house to steal or whatnot and organized crime, which is the one in which the mafia or organized professionals carry out kidnappings, which are influenced by the Colombian FARC (Interview with Fernando, Maracaibo, Venezuela, July 6, 2008). Venezuelans, especially those living along the border with Colombia, have felt the reper cussions of the Colombian governments struggle with the guerrillas. However, Colombias successes in pushing out the guerrilla forces have sent them farther and farther into Venezuela. Donato, a rancher whose property in Zulia lies very close to the Colombian border, is in complete agreement with Fernando when it comes to his views on the FARC. We have here, especially over the Venezuelan rural sector, the influence and presence of the FARC. Kidnapping producers and asking for one thousand million Bolivars has become commonplace. They kidnap producers that have some economic means and we know of cases where they have made him (the producer) sell his herd just to pay. I mean, the man has 300 cows, they may be worth one thousand million Bolivars. They make him sell the cows and then hand the money to the FARC and they return the man. Therefore, that producer is not producing milk, or meat, or grains, or anything at all. They have left him in ruin. And that is the impact of personal insecurity. We have some i ndicators that make us think that the Venezuelan government is in some way protecting the organized crime in which the FARC participates. Why? Because there are constant complaints about (FARC) camps and the government does not do anything about it. So, what does that make us think? That the government protects the guerillas. If the

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59 government is not collaborating with the guerrillas it is at least protecting them and allows them to do certain things that are prohibited (Interview with Donato, Maracaibo, Venezuela, July 12, 2008). Accusations like this one by Donato are not completely unfounded. They need to be understood in terms of events that are covered by the media, such as the early March 2008 incident in which Colombias army entered Ecuador without permission in order to raid a FARC camp. The situation seemed to be escalating and it made many nervous about the relations between Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. However, what made many more people uncertain were documents tying Hugo Chvez to the FARC that were recovered from the computer of Ral Reyes, a senior leader of the FARC guerrillas who was killed during the raid. According to The Economist the files appear to show that Mr. Chvez offered the FARC up to $300m, and talked of allocating the guer rillas an oil ration which they could sell for profit. They also suggest that Venezuelan army officers helped the FARC to obtain small arms, such as rocket propelled grenades, and to set up meetings with arms dealers. Chvez denies these claims, and alt hough the messages were authenticated by Interpol, he claims that these were fabricated ( The Economist May 22, 2008). Whether these claims are true or false, they have fueled the distrust that many in the opposition, especially ranchers, have for Chvez Ruben Barbosa, from Santa Barbara del Zulia, is a milk, meat, and plantain producer who is also the president of FEGALAGO. FEGALAGO is the association of ranchers around Lake Zulia, an organization which is closely associated with FEDENAGA. Look, the Sierra de Perija and all of the frontier (with Colombia) is filled with guerrillas, because Colombia is getting rid of the guerrilla. They said either you become pacified or we will exterminate you, and all of them are running here. So there are guerrill a camps in all of the frontier zone. In the

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60 municipalities of Luis Enrique Losada, el Catatumbo, Rosario de Perija, in Machiques de Perija, in all of these the impudence is so great that you see military units side by side with guerrilla encampments. In addition to that, they provide them with food. You can see military trucks with food from the Mercal traveling towards the guerrilla encampments. The government denies that there are guerrillas, the government denies everything. But right now in Zulia ther e are 65 individuals kidnapped, from January until now. Twelve of them are agricultural producers. In all of Venezuela there are almost 160 kidnappings right now. In just the past seven months! I mean, this is alarming. This is total chaos and we have decl ared ourselves to be in an emergency, but the government says that we are exaggerating. How do you see that? The situation we are living in is terrifying, but we are not going to run away from our country. We prefer to fight for political change and this government has to reach its end. The nation has to become aware of the reality we are living in and of the danger we are in. If we continue this way and famine does hit and we find ourselves without our domestic production, well I think that would be the beginning of a civil war here (Interview with Ruben Barbosa, Maracaibo, Venezuela, July 12, 2009). Distrust of the government, however, is not only reserved for Chvez Regardless of ideological or political position, most Venezuelans have a great distrust of the authorities, including the military and the police. Ernesto Vilchez is a 19year old upper middle class college student. He and his family are avid Chvez supporters and see much of what the government is accomplishing in a positive light. However, E rnesto shows a complete distrust for the police and told me that no matter what, you do not call the police. If I am out in the street and somebody hits my car, what can I do? Call the police? What are they going to do? Nothing. Or they can just try to t ake my money. They are useless and they cant be trusted (Interview with Ernesto Vilchez, Maracaibo, Venezuela, June 9, 2008). Distrust in the police and the military is reinforced when members of these forces are linked to criminal activity. In July 2 007 Rubn Daro Bravo Gmez was abducted from his cattle ranch by seven armed individuals. The Cuerpo de Investigaciones Cientficas, Penales y Criminalsticas (CICP) of the State of Cojedes handled the

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61 investigation and discovered that two of the men involved in the kidnapping were part of the National Guard, including an officer from the anti extortion and anti kidnapping team ( GAES: G rupo Antiextorsin y Secuestro) of the Venezuelan State of Anzotegui ( Piero, 2007). The ranchers fears may seem exaggerated. However, one has only to open a newspaper or watch the news in Venezuela to find reports of victims who have been kidnapped. Many of these victims are ranchers or their families have been targeted. Table 52 is a short list of some of the rancher s (many of them from the State of Zulia) who were victims reported in various news sources from 2007 until 2009. Crim e and fear of kidnapping affect ranchers in numerous ways. The fearfulness of this group of people was made apparent to me early on in my investigation, because it was extremely difficult to find those who were willing to be interview ed. The threat of kidnappings, reprisals and distrust of the police and the government have made many property owners very fearful. For example, Miguel is a meat and dairy producer with property on the outskirts of Maracaibo. At the time of the interview he had been recently threatened by a band of kidnappers and was very hesitant to speak to me and only agreed to do so after I assured him that his personal in formation would be kept confidential. People have stopped investing in agriculture, because they do not have legal security with respect to their land holdings, and added to that you have personal insecurity, which has worsened in the past six to seven years. Insecurity has been slowly getting worse and worse. Before, it was only in certain areas that it was dangerous, on the frontier and those areas. Now, the entire state of Zulia is affected. That, of course, changes the way you run your business. I used to go to my farm every Tuesday and I would come back on Fridays. I would spend the entire week there. But two months ago they tried to kidnap me at my ranch. So now I only go once or twice a month with some bodyguards just to take a look and to supervise the administr ator I now have there. (Interview with Miguel, Maracaibo, Venezuela, June 30, 2008).

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62 Miguel brought up one of the biggest problems for Venezuelan agriculture. Investment in agricul ture has previously been done only by private producers with little to no government help. However, increased insecurity (both personal and as we will later see also political) has reduced the level of investment by private producers. Less money and less time is spent by ranchers on their property. More money, however, is being spent on security in order to protect themselves and their families. Miguel emphasized the increased costs caused by insecurity. Personal insecurity at this moment increases costs. Because, if you have to pay for your own security, to invest in security, you increase the costs of production. So, if you have to pay ten men so that they take care of you, you have to add it to the total costs of production. So, many of the producers, or owners of the companies, hardly visit [their lands] because they are scared. What I mean is that they live somewhere else, or they move to another city, because they are scared that they will get kidnapped or robbed (Interview with Miguel, Maracaibo, Venezuela, June 30, 2008). Miguels sentiments were echoed by R uben Barbosa who emphasized both the difficulty for ranchers today his worry for the future of Venezuelan production. Look, the consequences (of insecurity) cant be measured, but they are very dangerous and very harmful. First of all, due to the high levels of judicial insecurity, of extortion, kidnappings and criminality, we have stopped living on our farms, we have stopped taking our children there because of fear and we are losing our family tradition. In my case, I am the fourth generation of agricul tural producers in my family. But look, my three oldest sons went to school graduated, and are working in the United States (Interview with Ruben Barbosa, Maracaibo, Venezuela, July 12, 2009). Ranchers are not the only ones calling for the government to do something about insecurity and about the FARC. On many occasions, Zulias governor and ex candidate for the presidency, Manuel Rosales, gave a speech demanding that Chvez ask the FARC to leave Venezuelan territory. He has also asked that Chvez combat the alliances that the FARC has with the mafia and other groups that are involved in kidnappings and extortion in Venezuela. In January 2008 Rosales met with various

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63 members of the Venezuelan government in order to try and coordinate a plan for border securi ty and formally denounce FARC activity in Venezuela. President Chvez however, still holds that the FARC does not have any Venezuelans as hostages and has even asked the international community to remove the FARC and the ELN from any terrorist groups list s ( El Nuevo Herald, January 19, 2008). Like Barbosa, Genaro Mndez, the president of FEDENAGA until 2009, also demands that Chvez s government do something about the FARC. In a press conference Mndez stated that the FARC has three camps in various Venezuelan states that border Colombia. Chvez s government, however, has denied the presence of these camps to the outrage of opposition leaders and Colombian politicians ( Contreraz, 2008). Barbosa made a very passionate argument about the effects of insecuri ty. He is very aware of the problem, because many of his friends and colleagues have suffered from this problem. Personal insecurity and the threat of a kidnapping changes your life completely. Someone who suffers through a kidnapping is left completely d estroyed, morally, economically and socially. They are completely organized. There are organized groups in the cities that have dedicated themselves to that. I mean, do you know whats great? That some other fool work really hard and all you have to do is threaten his life or that of his family and he just gives you his lifelong effort. That is destroying our country and it is destroying agricultural production. The agricultural exodus due to insecurity is dramatic. Our government is not doing anything abo ut that. You look at the national government and they protect the delinquents. You look at state and municipal governments and they maintain themselves at the margin of the problem. So, we are the ones left to fight and thanks to the media we are able to s end our message across so that all Venezuelans can become aware of the dangerous situation we are living in (Interview with Ruben Barbosa, Maracaibo, Venezuela, July 12, 2009) The Decline in Production The Role of Political Insecurity As discussed earl ier, most cattle ranchers and large agricultural producers in general are in disaccord with the Venezuelan government. They maintain it is the

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64 governments treatment of them and the governments agricultural and economic policies that are causing a decline in their production. The governments agrarian reform is one of the main complaints against the government. Fernando, like all the cattle ranchers I spoke with, believes that the Agrarian Reform is doing much to increase land tenure insecurity and that it goes against the laws of the country. When it comes to legal insecurity, what is happening? The government approves a Ley de Tierras with a different vision and trying to copy the laws that Cuba imposed fifty years ago. In many ways it is similar to the C uban law, but here it has allowed the government to commit many offenses against producers that today own the land. They have taken away lands. In my particular case, they have confiscated my lands even though I voluntarily ceded a portion of them to the government. Now they want to also take the rest of them. That is part of the insecurity. The government makes the decision to take over your business and they do not pay you. That, then, is not an intervention but a confiscation, which is prohibited by the constitution. Confiscation in Venezuela does not exist in terms of rights, but it does in terms of actions. Why do I say that? Because even though according to the law it is not permitted, the Venezuelan government accepts it. So, our very government takes away our businesses, gives it to someone else, and does not pay you for it. That is an attack on the production of food in this country (Interview with Fernando, Maracaibo, Venezuela, July 6, 2008). An aspect of the land reform that agricultural producer s complain about the most is the issuing of Cartas Agrarias by the INTI, which allows a group of peasants to occupy land that they deem to be idle and on which they have made a formal complaint While the status of the land is in dispute, peasants are allowed to settle on the land and work it. Landowners set on defending their land, often fight for it and this has increased the level of violence in the countryside greatly (Wilpert, 2005). Antonio, a cattle rancher who lives in Maracaibo, but who owns two estates on the outskirts of the city complained about the way the Cartas Agrarias are issued. Supposedly, peasants who see a piece of property that they believe is not productive can denounce it to the INTI. Then the INTI does an investigation, and according to the report that they make, whether land is productive or

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65 not, they can decide whether to expropriate the land or not. So, if they consider the land to be unproductive, they give their permission and the peasants, who are protected by the army, can go on the land and take it over (Interview with Antonio, Maracaibo, Venezuela, June 12, 2008). Ranchers and rancher organizations speak out against the violence and the threat to their property. The Venezuelan peasant organizations have tried to call attenti on to the murder of many peasant leaders. However, the peasant organizations are weak and cannot exert much pressure on local governments or on society for the violence against peasant leaders and those occupying lands under dispute to end (Wilpert, 2005). Land Invasions are a great source of fear for cattle ranchers. They see it as a threat to their property and to their person. Violence, however, comes from both sides with ranchers and peasants as victims and offenders. In fact, according to the New Yor k Times, over 80% of land invaders who have been killed, have been killed by landowners (Forrero, 2005). One of the most contested and reported examples of land expropriations has been that of the Vestey group in Venezuela. The Vestey group is a large organization that owns ranching businesses in Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil along with butcher shops in Great Britain and shipping lines. They became a target for land expropriation in 2005 when the Venezuelan National Land Institute announced in a "revol utionary decision" that Vestey's title deeds were "not in order". The government plans to give the land to 24 statesponsored cooperatives tasked with growing sugar cane, rice and beans. Not all of the invasions are for agricultural purposes. In many cas es homeless families set up camp on these lands and form the barriadas that can be seen on the outskirts of major cities in Venezuela. In 2007 a few families invaded the Villa Di Martino, the property of a well known politician in Zulia. In July 2008 the m unicipal

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66 police of San Francisco, the National Guard and the intelligence brigade went into the area to eject the squatters who consisted of about 200 women and 400 children with no other place to live ( La Verdad, July 4, 2008). It is believed that the squatters were removed because of Di Martinos political influence. Antonio explained that when land is confiscated, production takes a turn for the worse, because all of the work of the owner is destroyed in the process. Once they take over the land, product ion on that site is pretty much over, because the owner of the property takes everything he can from it. He takes his machinery, his cattle, whatever he can salvage. Then the land is left at the disposition of the peasant committee. Supposedly, they are se t up as cooperatives. But if that land was for cattle production before, then it becomes conucos. They will produce corn or grains, subsistence production. They do not produce anything extra, which is what you actually want. So, production is actually lost and the peasants who gain the land tend to be worse off than before, because they have no knowledge (of production), they are not given technical or financial assistance or anything. What you actually get is a land market of sorts, because they will just sell the lands. Within ten years all those lands will just return to their previous state (Interview with Antonio, Maracaibo, Venezuela, June 12, 2008). There are many problems with the land reform, including Venezuelas weak legal framework, lawlessness, violence, poor infrastructure and support. Many landowners in Venezuela hold no titles to their land, which slows the process of investigation. The court system is slow, causing land disputes to drag on for years. The violence in the rural areas has slowed production and investment and the police and government officials who have jurisdiction are mostly corrupt (Wilpert, 2005). The land law prohibits the sale of land adjudicated by the agrarian reform, which according to Olivier Delahaye, a professor of agronomy at the Central University of Venezuela, is detrimental to the peasants. After three years of working the land, a person is given legal title to it. A black market has risen where peasants sell the titles to their land, but since they do so illegally

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67 they get extremely low prices for it Thus creating a vicious cycle where most of the land that is granted to peasants, eventually end up in the hands of a small group of wealthy land owners. (Ibid). Additional problems include a lack of infrastructure and investment in the new agrarian cooperatives. The National Institute for Rural Development (INDER) is in charge of providing agricultural infrastructure in the form of roads and materials, as well as credit for investment and production, and the traini ng of farmers. According to some ranchers, however, this is not happening and instead land that could be productive is being wasted. Donato believes that the lands that are granted are then made unproductive due to a lack of knowledge by the workers and lack of support from the government. This is a widely held idea and has proven to be the case many times in various land reforms around the world, including the various reforms in Latin America in the 1960s (Baker, 1980). When land reform is carried out and peasant holdings are created, the government must sustain these peasants for some amount of time, including providing training and education and meeting the subsistence needs of the beneficiaries until they are self sufficient. This, however, is not sus tainable for long periods of time (Bullard, 2001). There is also the assumption that those who are given land have farming knowledge and experience. However, especially in the case of Venezuela, this is usually incorrect. In fact, it has been shown that during most land reforms many of those who accept land do so reluctantly and would prefer to remain in urban centers if they could find employment (Ibid). Alberto believes that the government does not give peasants enough support and that in order to surviv e, the peasants then sell the land (Interview with Alberto, Maracaibo, Venezuela, June 30, 2008)..

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68 Whether the land that is granted by the government, many times in the form of cooperatives, will result in a successful productive structure is still to be seen. The Bolivarian Revolution has come to define its development strategies through a model of production based on cooperatives. The 1999 constitution states that cooperatives are tools of economic inclusion, participation and decentralization (Articl es 70 and 184). Articles 118 and 308 also state the government is supposed to promote and protect cooperatives ( Piero 2005). In March 2004 the Mission Vuelvan Caras was created to educate adults in technical, managerial and historical subjects among others. Graduates of the Mission are then free to go on to a technical profession of their choosing, but are mostly encouraged to join or form cooperatives. These cooperatives are created and supported through Nucleos de Desarollo Endgeno (Endogenous Dev elopment Zones), which are formed by one or more Vuelvan Caras cooperatives that design and propose a project. Once this project is approved, the cooperatives are to receive technical training and support, access to credits and physical space to complete t he project. Many of these cooperatives are urban, but some feed into the Mission Zamora and, therefore, the agrarian reform ( Piero 2005). When Chvez came to power in 1998, there were 762 known cooperatives in Venezuela. By May 2005 there were 900 Vuel van Caras cooperatives, 73% of them were agricultural cooperatives ( Piero 2005). The cooperatives are seen by the government as a way to increase production and to improve the lives of the poor. Members put a great emphasis on production, since they have to pay off loans and comply with government contracts. According to the members, the main problems stem from internal communication and from a lack of administrative and managerial skills

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69 (Ibid). Critics, however, point to this lack of skills and to a dependence on government resources as the reasons why cooperatives will fail. They also point to corruption and disorganization of government entities as another barrier to their success. Whether these cooperatives are successful or not is still to be seen. However, it is safe to say that the cooperatives contribute to generating employment in the country. As I have reported, they also raise the fears of producers who think they might be displaced by this form of productive organization (Ibid). Luis Enr ique agrees with Donatos negative view of the agrarian reform. His fears are not only about his personal situation, but also that the agrarian reform will be extremely harmful to national agricultural production. We see the agrarian reform as the destr uction of the agricultural sector, because a reform should have a formal process that guarantees you payment for your property. The problem is that this government does not respect anything. It sends people in to invade in a manner that is delinquent and i t does not want to recognize or pay for the work of the owners of the farms that they invade. When they began with the socalled reform we used to produce 95% of the consumption in this country. Today only 45% is produced. They destroyed production units t rying to invent and produce in a completely different direction. Production units should be protected and lands should be distributed only when they are not productive. In Anzoategui, Guarico, Ciudad Bolivar, there is a lot of unproductive land over there. Instead, they pick areas that are already developed and productive and they completely ruin them. They set up cooperatives on these lands and give them billions of bolivars and there they are, but what they produce is pity. [We pity them]. They dont produce anything else. The people there are living in misery, with no urban development, or roads to connect them to the rest of the country. They dont produce anything and the investment is lost and insecurity has been the only thing generated. They let the lands go to waste and then they sell them. They dont work them. To the south of the lake many lands were given away and machinery was given away. It was all lost. They do not have a farming culture, they were not given instruction or anything. They wast ed the money on trucks and gambling and how are they doing now? In worse conditions than when they started. They are not development programs, they are populist programs ( Interview with Luis Enrique, Maracaibo, Venezuela, June 12, 2008).

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70 Land reforms have shown a tendency to destabilize production in the initial process. This may be due to adjustments in the organization of production, insecurity over land ownership, or lack of knowledge on the part of new land owners Land reforms that have shown a positiv e impact on productivity tend to be those carried out in systems that were previously composed of small peasant farms, with a high rate of insecure tenancy and absentee landlords. However, when the reform breaks up large, efficient and modern farms in order to substitute them with small producers who not only know little about modern production, but also know little about farming in general, the impact is usually devastating to production and efficiency levels (Stalberg, 2006). This seems to be the case in Venezuela, because it is not only idle land that has become a target for expropriation. Ranches such as the Vestey Ranch and lands belonging to large food producers such as Polar and Parmalat have become targets. As t he purchasing power of Venezuelas poor has increased dramatically since Chvez came to power. For this reason, the government blames food shortages on increased consumption. However, along those same lines one has to take into account that the purchasing power of middle class and wealthy Venezuelans has decreased significantly, so their consumption probabl y has decreased. S ince 2003 there have actually been multiple reports of increases as well as decreases in consumption. Between January and October 2009 the consumption of sugar, coffee and powdered milk have decreased by 25.5% 20.02% and 9.96% respectively ( El Universal, October 6, 2009). However, the effects that food hoarding and smuggling, price caps, high government imports, crime and political insecurity have on food availability are evident. These issues are converging and creating problems that are difficult to pinpoint and much less solve.

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71 Table 51 Venezuelas yearly food imports (in tons ) Year Frozen Bovine Meat Fresh Milk Rice Wheat Total Difference % 1995 932 1,193 104,637 1,115,044 1,221,806 1996 210 1,109 20,313 939,442 961,074 21% 1997 628 1,294 118 992,604 994,644 3% 1998 2,130 2,928 144 1,178,207 1,183,409 19% 1999 2,493 2,355 368 1,231,402 1,236,618 4% 2000 3,536 2,768 266 1,236,430 1,243,000 1% 2001 4,126 2,7 46 245 1,297,381 1,304,498 5% 2002 5,379 2,813 316 899,109 907,617 30% 2003 1,366 3,680 85,132 1,148,221 1,238,399 36% 2004 10,710 3,457 302 1,213,567 1,228,036 21% 2005 4,843 5,677 382 1,389,107 1,400,009 14% 2006 7,888 6,990 776 1,739,878 1,755,53 2 25% 2007 29,558 6,760 520 1,466,111 1,502,949 14% 2008 55,055 30,862 80,661 1,540,039 1,706,617 14% Source: Fedeagro.org Table 52 Reports of cattle ranchers kidnapped in V enezuela in 2008 and 2009 Date Name Event Source 13 Dec 07 Anselmo Martnez Fernndez A cattle rancher in the State of Zulia was kidnapped El Universal December 13, 2007 27 Jun08 Ignacio Jos Fuguett Lugo A cattle rancher, he was kidnapped was kidnapped from his home in the middle of the night El Universal June 27, 2008 5 Jul 08 Luis Labrador He was kidnapped from his ranch. He was then found dead at the beginning of September 2008. El Universal 2008 5 Mar 09 Humberto Enrique Rincn Prez He became the third victim of kidnapping in Zulia for 2009. He was kidnapped from his farm and liberated 30 days later after his family paid for his release Diario de Los Andes April 05, 2009 27 Jun08 Alberto Ramrez He was kidnapped while he was working on his farm in San Pedro, Zulia. He was found dead about a month later in April Radio Noticias Venezuela, April 06, 2009

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72 Table 52 Continued Date Name Event Source 5 Feb10 ngel Enrique Urdaneta He was kidnapped by four armed men at 5:30 in the morning from his property in the outskirts of Maracaibo La Verdad February 5, 2010 9 Feb10 dgar Morales He was taken from his fathers farm by four armed men at four in the morning La Verdad February 10,2010 7 Feb10 Domingo Perera Chirinos Became the 17 th Victim of Kidnapping in the State of Zulia for 2010. He was held in captivity for 5 days and later released. La Verdad February 13, 2010

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73 CHAPTER 6 CONCL USION Venezuela has been facing chronic food shortages since 2003. The problem has been constant, although it has demonstrated itself in different w ays. Milk, meat, sugar, rice and beans have been difficult to find at one time or another. When food is available, however, it is due to the huge amount of imports that the government has had to rely upon. A close look at the situation shows the complexit y of the food availability problem. An examination of Venezuelas agricultural history reveals that agriculture has never been given priority in the country. Dependence on oil has led the government to emphasize petroleum based development, which also has led to hyper urbanization. Rural areas and agriculture were largely abandoned. Venezuela has therefore never been completely self sufficient in food, and it should not be a surprise that food availability has become a problem. The rise in crime has had a devastating impact on many different sectors and areas of the country. Many studies have shown how crime affects productivity, and the example of Venezuelas cattle ranchers is a contribution to this literature. Crime has affected how often produc ers go to their ranches, if at all. Money that could be invested back into production has been diverted towards security and safety precautions. Most significantly, crime, especially in the form of kidnappings, has driven many cattle ranchers completely out of production. Once a rancher or one of his family members is kidnapped, more than likely all of his assets have to be sold to finance a rescue. Political insecurity is also a major problem that cattle ranchers and others involved in the food industr y are facing. Government policies such as price controls and

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74 the agrarian reform are having an ill effect on food production. The cattle ranchers I spoke to, and producers in general I have read about, are not willing to produce at a loss. If they cannot m ake money from their work and worse, if they lose money from their efforts, they will cease to produce. Furthermore, many are not willing to make investments in their property if at any point it can be taken from them. Because of the decrease in producti on and availability of food, the government has had to resort to increasing the amount of food it imports. Although this policy may solve the short term problem, it also has caused concern among food producers. They contend that when their production increases, there is no room for their goods in the market. Another concern is the sustainability of this policy. Food imports rely on oil revenues, which are subject to unstable world market conditions. Food hoarding, as has been pointed out by the government is also a major problem impeding Venezuelas food security. Large amounts of food are stored away or smuggled in to Colombia and the Venezuelan government is making great efforts to prevent this. Store owners, however, fear being accused of hoarding food and many opt for stocking fewer items in their stores. This dilemma has affected what shoppers have available to them. Crime, political insecurity, food hoarding, and contraband are all major issues that affect Venezuelas problems with food availabilit y. However, a major contribution of this project comes is the fact that all of these problems are being looked at together. The problems are interrelated and they have an effect on each other. They have been looked at in Venezuela, but never as a whole. Moreover, although these problems all affect the state of food availability in Venezuela, it is the way these problems are being

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75 dealt with that has the most adverse effects. The major contribution of this project is the assertion that food availability has become a source of political contention. The government and those in the food industry (producers, food processors, store owners, etc) who oppose the government keep blaming each other and many times are unwilling to work together. The media is replete wit h stories in which each side places the blame on the other and they seem unwilling to come together to find a solution. This research focuses on that very problem that most other observers are failing to notice. It is this authors belief that Venezuelas problem with food is a problem that affects the entire nation and until the two sides are willing to work together to find solutions to the problem, the food security of the country remains at stake. This problem could not come at a worse time, when res earchers from around the world are pointing to upcoming struggles with food availability that governments around the world will have to face. Researchers point to global climate changes and erroneous policies as having negative effects on food production w orldwide. This project makes a contribution to the current literature on food security and can be seen as a stepping stone for further research. Venezuelas problems have historical roots, but are being made all the worse due to government policies and soc ial struggles. These types of problems must be taken seriously into account and should be further studied in order to grasp the problems the world could be facing in a few years time.

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86 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Keli Shannan Garcia was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela. She received her Bachelor of Arts in History at the University of Florida in 2006. She rec eived the University of Florida Latin American Studies Center Field Research Grant in order to complete her m aster s thesis research in 2008.