The illegal grab of Venezuela's Hato Piñero: owners speak up
By Jaime Perez Branger
08.04.05 | "Hato Piñero is a symbol that cannot be destroyed with the baseless and reckless accusations that pretend to ignore the work we’ve done for more than five decades in defense of the environment”, that is the way in which Jaime Perez Branger, president of Agropecuaria San Francisco, the holding entity of Hato Piñero, responded to the accusations made yesterday by the President of INTI, Eliécer Otaiza, before the National Assembly.
“Hato Piñero and its Foundation are neither a front nor a farce. We represent a collective holding of more than 30 families whose hard work and dedication can be showcased with pride in Venezuela and around the world. One cannot easily ignore the importance of the productive, social and environmental tasks (the three facets of sustainable development) that have been accomplished at Hato Piñero, as well as its contributions to production of food for the country. At Hato Piñero, and through its Foundation, we’ve assumed the defense and protection of the environment as our primary purpose.”
We do protect the environment
"We reject categorically the alleged 'environmental or ecological harm' that supposedly has been committed in Hato Piñero", indicated Jaime Perez Branger. “Thanks to our efforts to protect the ecosystems found in the area, species such as the Yellow-Knobbed Curassow, a species in danger of extinction, not only survive but thrive in Hato Piñero; this is a product of the conservation work which we have advanced there. Of equal importance, in the cattle ranch, all major feline species existing in Venezuela are represented demonstrating the fact that they do not represent a limiting factor in the development of cattle ranching activities, considering that these predators have a high diversity of prey such as the capybara, agouti, peccary and deer, to mention a few.”
In Hato Piñero there exist 850 floral species which represent 28.33% of the flora of the llanos, covering over 130 botanical families and 494 genus. The herbarium at the ranch has classified more than 2,500 samples of the llanos’ flora; especially those in the state of Cojedes, five of those identified there can be considered new species at a worldwide level.
We do contribute to the scientific development of the country
Contrary to what the president of INTI has said, we can demonstrate that in Hato Piñero the important and thorough research that has been made has helped tremendously to the advance of knowledge of the flora and the fauna of the country. More than 52 scientific studies on subjects such as cattle breeding, agriculture, ecology, and the environment have been carried out by specialists from recognized national and international institutions and universities. Similarly, more than 50 national and international institutions have used the facilities to conduct workshops, teach courses, and participate in internships.
We do produce
Nor can we ignore the production accomplishments at Hato Piñero. At this moment, within its boundaries graze 11 thousand heads of bovine and buffalo cattle and 5 thousand kilograms of pasture seeds are harvested. This taking into consideration that the cattle ranch’s extension is characterized as follows: 11 thousand hectares pertaining to the massif of El Baul- rock formations not apt for farming; 18 thousand hectares of protected forest which conform the forest known as Chirgua- these are only used for environmental research; 12,500 hectares of the forest of Los Caballos- used for environmental, ecological studies and refuge for species in danger of extinction; and 18 thousand hectares of flooded savannahs that are only used for minimum impact grazing during the summer months. The 15 thousand remaining hectares comprise of natural and planted grasses used in production during winter.
We do have an environmental plan
It is necessary to also emphasize that Hato Piñero counts on its own "Structure and Regulation of Use for Conservation Plan", as an integral environmental management instrument-- unique in the private sector at the national level— to guide our directives, programs and projects that are being conducted in cattle ranching, ecotourism, environmental education, investigation and conservation.
According to what Perez Branger described, "this plan establishes restrictions of use to areas. It was produced by Annaye Carrizo, a Venezuelan lawyer, while pursuing her Magíster Scientiarum in Environmental Management at the Experimental University of the Armed Forces. This work obtained Honorary Mention and was ordered for publication.
The cemeteries are not new "discoveries"
According to what was expressed by the President of Agropecuria San Francisco, "indeed, there are 2 cemeteries in Hato Piñero, located in the Northern part, which during the 30’s and 40’s were used by the people that live near El Baul. But these cemeteries in no way belong to any indigenous ethnic group. In regards to the third cemetery that was referenced, it corresponds to a discovery made in 1985 when a group of anthropologists, carrying out studies in the ranch, found it. An agreement was then established with the Mayor of the town of El Pao and the Institute of Cultural Patrimony of Cojedes State to conduct the necessary scientific research, which was paid mainly by the Agropecuaria San Francisco, which is the holding entity of the ranch. The relevant public authorities, competent in these matters, have all the respective information".
We do not exploit the land for nonmetallic minerals
Finally, Perez Branger said that in Hato Piñero "we do not operate nonmetallic mining. For reasons beyond our control, during the long period of rains that affected the region between the end of 2004 and the beginning of this year, we were forced to use sand and gravel to repair part of the roads that were seriously damaged so that we could guarantee provisions of food to workers in remote areas and to continue with our daily operations. This activity has been suspended responding to the concerns of the government. In case that corrective action must be taken, we are prepared to execute it immediately".
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