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Venezuela's regime: The big landowner

By Veneconomy

15.04.05 | Once again, the government-coalition steamroller went into action at the National Assembly. On April 14, the regime’s deputies approved the amendment to the Lands and Agricultural Development Law following its second debate in parliament, without taking account of the observations made by the opposition benches.

What is worse, they defied the ruling handed down by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice in November 2002, which eliminated Articles 89 and 90 of this law. The concepts contained in these articles have now been included in Articles 85 and 86, so granting the National Lands Institute (INTI) the power to take precautionary measures with a view to recovering land without the need to go through the courts, and eliminating the right of those who, in the future, are declared to be “illegal or illicit occupants” (read “present owners”) to indemnity for their land and any improvements thereon. What is more, the amendment changes the concept of latifundio or large estate, which will now be defined depending on the “social function” of the land and its productivity, which must reach 80% or the land will run the risk of being confiscated.

The law grotesquely extends the confiscatory powers of the INTI, now under the orders of Eliézer Otaiza, by allowing it to define what land will be liable to “recovery” by the government. According to Hiram Gaviria, with this amendment, 20 million hectares currently in private hands are being confiscated. On the other hand, the people who are, supposedly, to be the beneficiaries under this law will only be granted use and production rights over the land, but not ownership rights, which will remain in the hands of the State.

To cut a tall story short, the Bolivarian deputies have performed the task assigned to them: they have handed the Executive an invaluable tool with which to cripple the right to own land in Venezuela. Now there is no land -be it urban, mining or rural- that will be safe from the voracious appetites of a government perceived as having clearly dictatorial leanings.

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