Posts Tagged ‘Venezuela’


Excellent article on the fallacy of the middle class in #Venezuela and how the current situation is eerily similar to 1989, with a huge discrepancy between the expectations of the people and the current economic reality.

Cadivi dies, and so does the middle class

(Since Cadivi is gasping its final breaths surrounded by controversy and not a minute too soon, this guest post by Iesa professor Pedro Luis Rodríguez could not be better timed. Rodríguez takes on Javier Corrales’ assertion that we’re mostly middle class, and concludes that it was all a mirage. Take a read and let us know how you view this debate)

Venezuela’s Middle Ground: now you see it, now you don’t

In a recent article in Foreign Policy, Javier Corrales argues that Venezuela today is a country of “mostly middle-class people”. Following the World Bank’s income thresholds for determining class membership, Corrales classifies each income decile in Venezuela into their respective class.

I’ve replicated his table following the guidelines in the appendix to his article (see Table 1). It is evident, as Corrales highlights, that by this measure in 2012 the majority of Venezuelans belonged to the middle class. Moreover, the distribution differs markedly from 1990 as a result of a large portion of the poor crossing the middle class threshold during the recent windfall (especially post 2005).

Corrales

Corrales correctly points out that once we agree that Venezuela is a middle class country, then deriding the recent wave of protests as “too middle class” is absurd and, in the case of the government, a political blunder. What else would one expect in a middle class country but middle class demands, including demands for better governance outcomes and representation?

The other half of the story

Yet Corrales’ table shows only half the story. In a country highly dependent on oil revenues, defining social progress solely in terms of income is problematic as we run the risk of confusing a temporary increase in consumption, financed with oil revenues, with a permanent increase in welfare. The only way the latter can be achieved is through sustained increases in productivity.

There is little doubt that the oil bonanza of the past decade and the government’s (re)distributive policies increased the income of the poor in Venezuela, swelling the middle class, at least as defined by the World Bank’s income thresholds. But to the extent that these outcomes are not the reflection of increased productivity but rather of increased consumption financed by high oil revenues, they are highly dependent on the incremental (not just continued) flow of this revenue. Once this flow becomes strained, as has been occurring since 2013, the model not only becomes unviable, but its apparent achievements can quickly be wiped out.

To get a sense of what this would entail, I reconstructed Corrales’ table using the World Bank data on GNI in local currency, converting it at the black-market exchange rate and applying the same PPP and inflation adjustment as in table 1 (see Table 2). While at the official exchange rate, Venezuelans’ incomes are indeed those of a middle-income country, at the black-market exchange rate this no longer holds. In this picture the majority of Venezuelans are poor.

Which picture is right? This depends on the capacity of the government to maintain its distributive policies including an overvalued exchange rate, which in turn depends on sustaining a steady supply of dollars. While Table 1 is likely a more accurate representation of income distribution in Venezuela between 2004 and 2012, I would argue reality is rapidly converging towards the second picture (Table 2), as the supply of dollars shrinks and becomes erratic.

Rodriguez

Some will correctly point out that the black-market exchange rate is not a proper measure of the market exchange rate one would see if it were allowed to float. In reality, it would be somewhere in between the official rate and the black market one (estimating this is not straightforward).

This deserves two comments: first, at this moment, as the government prevaricates in its economic policy, it is forcing the picture to look much more like Table 2 than need be, as goods are priced at the black-market rate for lack of access to dollars, or are simply non-existent. Second, Table 1 is but an illusion that is unraveling, with the trend nowadays clearly in the direction of the second picture. Whether we ever reach it or not is inconsequential for the argument that follows.

Yes, many Venezuelans, and most particularly the poor, managed to climb up the income ladder as a result of the government’s distribution of the oil bonanza. In particular, as has also been common in previous governments, through the use of an overvalued exchange rate. Yet, as dollars have become scarce for reasons that are beyond the scope of this article, the precariousness of these outcomes becomes manifest.

The income ladder has not only been withdrawn, but those that had climbed up are being pulled back down. I would posit that this, rather than middle class demands, explains the growing discontent, part of which (although far from its entirety) has expressed itself on the streets in recent weeks. Whether the “new” middle class identifies itself with traditional middle class demands of better governance and representation remains to be seen. The speed and means through which this change in incomes occurred – distribution of rents rather than productivity – arguably suggest the contrary.

That is not to say however, that the focus of the opposition’s discourse should lie on unsatisfied basic needs rather than demands for accountability, representation and political and economic freedoms. The challenge lies in explaining how the scarcity of the latter explains the abundance of the former.

Is this really so different from 1989?

Unfortunately the data on income distribution is not readily available, yet we can still look at mean income (in constant 2005 international $) measured at the official and black market exchange rates (see Figure 1). The widening gap between these two measures is evident since 2004. Yet we see exactly the same pattern in the period preceding 1989. As in 1989, what we are observing today is the confrontation of inflated expectations, formed over a period of bonanza and grand promises, with an increasingly grim reality.

In 1989 the consequences of this confrontation were traumatic. This time around, the gap between expectations and reality is I arguably much larger, and hence the potential for an explosive outcome much greater. A lot depends on how the government confronts its economic demons, although it might already be too late. If this narrative is correct, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to discontent taking over the streets. Are the paramilitary groups known as colectivos enough to contain this?

Rodriguez 2

Mirages in the desert

To be clear, the proposed narrative is not inconsistent with Corrales’. It could very well be that the swelling of the middle class observed over the past oil boom led to the emergence of middle class demands for governance and representation. It should be possible to see this in surveys such as Latinobarómetro.  The narrative above however does claim that the main source of discontent brewing today is the result of the confrontation of inflated expectations with a dismal reality. This discontent is not so different from that which led to social unrest in 1989.  Venezuelans are once again at that point when the mirages created by the bonanza disappear, leaving them in the same desolation they found themselves in over twenty years ago.

The question that remains is whether the opposition is able to offer a way out of this vicious cycle. To do so, it must explain why we are where we are, and provide a credible vision of how we are going pull ourselves up by our bootstraps rather than hold on to vain hopes of a new bonanza. We all want the first picture to be true (Table 1). Indeed we want all blocks to be colored red or grey.  Yet the only way for this to be sustainable is via a continued increase in productivity. Our oil income can be an instrument in this endeavor but it can never substitute for our effort. Whether we’ve understood this remains to be seen, otherwise we will keep grasping at mirages in the desert.

04/26/2014

Pedro Luis Rodríguez

Assistant Professor – IESA/UCAB

@prodriguezsosa


>The Criollo Cocoa bean from Chuao is the best!!

Venezuelan village claims best cocoa

By Lissy De Abreu (AFP) – 3 days ago

CHUAO, Venezuela — As the sun beats down to dry cherished criollo beans in the main square in Chuao, residents of the village in mountainous northern Venezuela simply say: behold the world’s best cocoa.

Of course, people in other countries, with chocolate on their happy faces, may beg to differ.

‘If you are born in Chuao, your life is tied up with cacao,’ Alcides Herrera told AFP, referring to the cacao tree which yields the cocoa bean from which chocolate is made.

Since 1976, Herrera’s company, Empresa Campesina Chuao, has produced Venezuela’s only cocoa beans with a coveted appellation certifying their origin.

‘As a kid, for example, when I was passing through the square, and you could feel a rainstorm closing in, you would stop to help gather up the beans,’ Herrera continued.

‘Ours are the world’s best cocoa beans. That has been certified, and experts from many countries agree,’ he said. ‘We process by hand with techniques that have been passed down for 400 years.’

More than 80 percent of the world’s cocoa comes from the forastero cacao tree and less than one fifth from Chuao’s criollo.

Many experts believe the criollo around here has a singular, tastier bean and they are top-of-the-list ingredients for many of the world’s top chocolate-makers.

Beans from Chuao total about 18-20 tons a year; it’s a tiny figure compared to the 20,000 tons Venezuela produces each year.

Recently, looking to boost output if possible, the government deemed cocoa beans a strategic crop. Now 35 percent of the annual take goes to a German firm; 35 percent goes to a new state Venezuelan Cocoa Bean Company; and the remaining 30 percent to local producers.

‘We have our eyes on the sky to see if any clouds pop up,’ explained Maryoli Chavez, 32, one of more than 1,200 workers at the cooperative.

‘I like to work on the farm. We all do a bit of everything and make the same money. Some weeks I am on drying duty, other times I am out picking pods or breaking out the seeds.’

On this afternoon, three of Maryoli’s kids were playing at her feet.

The cocoa industry has traditionally been women’s work in Venezuela. Men tend to work in construction or the coastal region’s fishing industry.

On cutting duty, the women wield machetes with skill, lopping off the violet or yellow pods in seconds; a few men trailing behind pick up and transport the pods for processing.

The area is just 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Caracas, but feels a world away as one has to travel in by sea as the town is wedged between a mountain and the Caribbean coast.

Edis Liendo, a local star among cocoa bean processors, hes been at it most of her life and is now 60.

‘I think the cocoa bean is something from the heavens. It was what the gods used to prepare as a special drink,’ Liendo says, hawking candies, liquor and desserts at the door of her home.

Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.

AFP: Venezuelan village claims best cocoa

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Venezuela in London: Mi cocina es tuya – Café Latino, Crystal Palace


Between the pubs and print shops of Westow Street in Crystal Palace is a fantastic little restaurant serving authentic Venezuelan cuisine. Mi cocina es tuya (My kitchen is yours) bills itself as London’s only Venezuelan restaurant – perfect for our World in London series.. If you know better, let us know in the comments below!
I went to meet husband-and-wife team Alexis and Mary yesterday to sample their coffee, and find out about their unique eatery. What started as an events catering business with a stall in Camden Market now has a more stable base in this Crystal Palace restaurant. During the past three years, Alexis and Mary have served their traditional Venezuelan cuisine all over London, from the Carnaval del Pueblo to the Venezuelan Embassy. For the last seven months, they’ve been concentrating on developing Mi cocina es tuya.
The menu offers delicious-sounding empanadas (patties), asado criollo (grilled beef and rice) and arepas (corn bread with beef, chicken or cheese). The most popular dish, Alexis tells me, is the Pabellón de carne: beef, black beans, rice and fried plantains.

“At first, finding the right ingredients was difficult. For example, this hallaca is a traditional Christmas dish, but it’s wrapped in banana leaves.” He shows me an intricately bound parcel of dark green leaves. “But, you can’t just buy banana leaves in Asda! Now, we’ve found out about the right vendors in Brixton, at the market, and we can make hallaca. Similarly, you can’t get the chilli beef for Pabellon de carne in a normal supermarket. Now, we go to a Columbian butcher in Brixton. It tastes just as good as the meat in Venezuela.”

As well as the traditional food, Mary and Alexis are proud to show me their Venezuelan drinks. Mi cocina es tuya is one of the few places in London you can enjoy typical Latin drinks like Malta, Sugarcane with lemon, and Cocada, which, I’m told, is like coconut milkshake, but much nicer.

“People are often surprised that our food is like food from Trinidad and Tobago, or Caribbean food. But really, we’re from the same part of the world. Chilean, Peruvian, Columbian, all Latin American people that come here will see and recognise the products we sell.”

Indeed, as well as being a lovely place for a traditional Venezuelan breakfast of Perico (scrambled eggs with chopped tomatoes, onions and coriander, black beans, cheese and arepa, or corn bread – much healthier, I’m assured than the Traditional English they also serve), Mi cocina es tuya is also something of a Latin American deli. You can by the white or yellow “PAN” cornflour, as well as Malta drinks and other typical delicacies.
With guitars and maracas hanging from the walls, as well as plenty of gorgeous pictures of Venezuela itself, I think Mi cocina es tuya is a fantastic representation of Venezuelan London. And the wonderful hospitality of Alexis and Mary means I’ll be back for more. That, and the promise of trying some Dulce de tres leche next time!

Visit Mi cocina es tuya – Café Latino at 61 Westow Street Crystal Palace, London, SE19 3RW. If you know any other examples of Venezuelan culture in London, let us know in the comments below.

Venezuela in London: Mi cocina es tuya – Café Latino, Crystal Palace – Visit London Blog

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>Asado Negro in the NY Times!!!

The Cheat: Dark Arts

This week’s recipe is a raggedy Christmas number out of Venezuela called asado negro. It requires a fat roast of beef that is simmered for a long time in dark caramel, its sweetness tempered by vinegar. The result is sticky and unctuous beneath a cloak of peppers, onions and leeks. It looks mysterious and bold on the plate and at the start of a New York winter can conjure some degree of Latin American humidity and joy.
Asado negro has its primary home in Caracas, where it is often served during the holidays, alongside fried sweet plantains and white rice, with perhaps a tart green salad for contrast. The meat is napped in blackness that comes not from fire or smoke but from the absorption of all colors into one, a color as deep as space itself.
It is beef the color of a velvet dinner jacket seen across a dark lawn at midnight. It makes mockery of pot roast. And, as we shall see, it is exceedingly simple to make.
Hold on: blackened beef? I first had the dish at a restaurant called Mohedano, a flash place in Chacao, the relatively prosperous part of Caracas that is a stronghold of opposition to Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez. The neighborhood supports restaurants and shopping centers and has plenty of gated parking lots guarded by men with guns. It recalls Miami crossed with the Upper East Side of Manhattan, with a few blocks of London and Mexico City thrown in for good measure.
Mohedano’s chef, Edgar Leal, runs the restaurant with his wife, Mariana Montero de Castro, with whom he has also had a restaurant in the United States. They served asado negro as part of a tasting menu designed to highlight the traditional flavors of cosmopolitan Venezuela.
Leal is an irrepressible figure in his restaurant, a ham who cooks with grace and precision, a character out of Stoppard, the gourmand existing within the privation of a repressive state. “It looks burned,” he said of his asado negro, laughing as he often does, as he placed the plate on a table. “But you see what you think.” Then he put on a stage whisper: “It’s not burned at all!”
The beef was cut thin, against the grain, and it glistened with moisture. The sauce cloaking it was dark and deep in flavor — with a strong, nutty sweetness, yes, but a bracing sort, far from cloying and leading only to the desire for more.
Leal cooks his asado negro with papelón, the solid block of unrefined cane sugar that is known by various names across Latin America (boiled sugar-cane pulp, essentially, formed into small blocks that can be broken into shards or grated into drinks or sauce). Papelón makes for excellent asado negro, and if you can find some at your local market — where you’ll most likely discover it listed as panela or piloncillo — go ahead and use it for your own.
But you can also cheat, which, as Chávez might say, is the way of our nation. Norman Van Aken, the Miami chef and restaurateur who has done much to bring the flavors of the Caribbean and South America to the United States, and who included a recipe for asado negro in his excellent 2003 cookbook, “New World Kitchen,” said in a telephone interview that the home cook could replicate some of the complexity of papelón by making a dark caramel out of plain white sugar and water, then adding a few teaspoons of brown sugar at the end.
“Asado negro is not a dish that’s centuries old,” Van Aken said. “As near as we could figure it in our research for the book, it goes back to the 1960s or ’70s. You can definitely mess around with it a little and make it your own.”
And so we begin with caramel, a chemistry-class lesson for the home. Sugar is dissolved in water and heated until the water evaporates and the sugar molecules break down, turning heavy and dark. Add to this sticky pool some vinegar and dry red wine, which impart savory, acidic notes to what will amount to a braising liquid, as well as some brown sugar for rustic depth. Pour the liquids carefully, for the caramel will spatter and hiss. Then allow the sauce to become whole again, stirring occasionally.
Now we sear the beef, creating a crust on the bottom of the pan that will add heft to our meal, a beefy intensity to counter the sugars and acids. Removing the meat from the pot for a moment, we sauté a great deal of garlic and onion, celery and leeks, then combine these with the seared beef and the caramel sauce under a swirl of sliced bell peppers, and push the covered whole into the oven for a few hours. Some crazy magic happens in there.
Plain white rice dressed only with a pat of butter is the best starch with which to pair this meal. You might try to locate some ripe plantains as well, to slice into coins and fry gently in oil until they turn the same golden brown as the caramel you started with. (In a pinch, you can use bananas, though they are a great deal more fragile and sweet than a ripe plantain, and require close attention in the pan, lest they turn to mush.)
Leal adds a rustic Venezuelan salad to the plate, with fresh hearts of palm, avocado and diced tomato. You might do the same, but at this time of the year, you would most likely disappoint yourself: December tomatoes in the United States are generally a grim affair, to say nothing of our canned hearts of palm and rock-hard avocados. Better to find some hothouse lettuces — Van Aken suggests something peppery in the area of watercress or arugula — and to dress these in a lime vinaigrette.
There’s a new Paul Simon song out, “Getting Ready for Christmas Day.” It’s all strummy guitar and thumping Delta blues, Simon’s muted trumpet of a voice singing about money and war, the pain of family and the release that comes to all of us somehow, religious or not, on Christmas Day. This would make a fine final accompaniment to the dinner itself, along with some dark beer or a strong zinfandel, slightly chilled.

The Dark Art of Beef – NYTimes.com

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Venezuela: Overcoming an Election Setback
October 24, 2010 | 1357 GMT

Summary
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has until mid-December to push through a series of laws designed to strengthen the executive’s power after his ruling Partido Socialista Unido party lost its parliamentary supermajority in September. These laws also seek to endow the thousands of communal councils loyal to the president with greater funding at the expense of state governments, undercutting his opposition. Passage of these laws will give Chavez better control of foreign assets in Venezuela and put him in a better position to stifle opposition supporters.

Analysis
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez may have suffered a slight setback Sept. 26 when his ruling Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) lost its two-thirds supermajority in the Venezuelan parliament, but he has options to try to maintain his political authority. Chavez and his allies have until Dec. 15 to push through a series of legislation before members of the opposition claim their seats in January 2011, when the next National Assembly session begins. Even then, the PSUV will still have 98 seats (compared to its previous 137 seats) in the 165-seat National Assembly with which to influence the legislative agenda. The various pieces of legislation currently making their way through parliament share the common purpose of augmenting the power of executive authority and the thousands of communal councils loyal to the president. If they make it through the National Assembly by year’s end, Chavez will be able more effectively to control foreign assets in the country and to sideline problematic legislators, mayors and governors who have sided with the opposition. A summary of the most critical legislation currently under review follows below.

Enabling Law for Special Presidential Powers


Summary: The details of this legislation have not been released, but it would likely contain provisions for the president to enact legislation by executive decree. Given the sensitivity of the legislation and the controversy that it would produce, the government appears to be keeping this proposal under wraps for now.

Status: This law was proposed by PSUV legislators Mario Isea and Iris Varela on Sept. 28, but has not been presented to the national assembly.

Oil Service Company Regulation Law
Summary:
This law would enable the government to bypass parliament when it wishes to nationalize the assets of oil and natural gas firms. According to the draft text, “… oil and gas operation assets can be subjected to measures of protection, insurance, requisition and expropriation when the continuity of work is affected …” The law would also allow the government to set tariffs for companies, prohibit the relocation of assets outside the country without state permission and prevent recourse to international arbitration in disputes. This is a reminder to firms like Halliburton, Schlumberger and Baker Hughes that watched nervously as the Venezuelan government nationalized 11 oil drilling rigs belonging to U.S. firm Helmerich & Payne in late June, which had halted production in protest of state-run Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA)’s failure to pay the company for its services. The legislative proposal also comes at a time when Venezuela is earnestly seeking foreign investors to develop its extra-heavy oil reserves in the Orinoco fields. Foreign firms are growing skittish over the regime’s intentions toward their assets, however. Even so, Venezuela’s deepening relationship with China to develop Orinoco in exchange for much-needed investment in state-owned sectors may be giving Caracas the extra boost of confidence to see this type of legislation through.

Status: A draft of the law has been completed and is supposed to be presented to parliament by the end of the year.

Communal Economic System Law
Summary:
This law is part of a package of “Popular Power” legislation designed to empower thousands of local communes comprised of mostly PSUV sympathizers. By devolving power to the local level and increasing their funding at the expense of state governors and municipal officials, Chavez aims to undercut his opposition and widen the number of Venezuelans dependent on him for their livelihood. This law on the economic system of the communes details how the executive authority will be able to directly transfer funds to the communes for local projects. It also attempts to stem rampant money laundering rackets that have debilitated state firms <http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/20100803_special_report_venezuelas_unsustainable_economic_paradigm>  by promoting non-monetary trading through an exchange, which allows for the bartering of goods. However, such a system is unlikely to resolve Venezuela’s corruption <http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/20100927_venezuelas_elections_and_devolving_state_power>  ailments.

Status: This law is currently being debated in the National Assembly. PSUV legislator Dario Vivas has said that Popular Power laws, including the Communal Economic System Law, will be given priority during this legislative period.

National Arms Control Law
Summary:
The disarmament law aims to give the government the sole authority to issue weapons licenses and to import and sell firearms. It would establish specific punishments for the use of firearms deemed illegal and involve a national survey to confiscate any such illegal arms. The law is being presented as a way to bring down the high level of violent crime in Venezuela, but has been criticized by the opposition for aiming to keep most Venezuelan arms in the hands of state security <http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/20100927_venezuelas_elections_and_devolving_state_power>  organizations, such as the growing National Bolivarian Militia <http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/20100430_special_report_venezuelas_control_armed_forces> .

Status: This law is still under debate in the National Assembly.

Banking Activity Regulation Law
Summary:
As part of the Organic National Financial System Law, this law is intended to give the state more authority in directing bank financing toward economic projects prioritized by the state, to include state-owned firms and communal council activities. State authority within the banking system has also greatly facilitated corruption among state-owned firms in the food, electricity, metals and energy sectors.

Status: This law has been discussed in the National Assembly Finances Commission and has been listed as a priority for approval, but has not yet been presented to the National Assembly.

Emergency Urban Land Regularization Law
Summary:
This law is intended to allow the government to reclaim land in urban spaces for residence construction and to nationalize private housing projects that have been halted. Under deteriorating economic conditions, a number of housing projects have stalled and have thus threatened to undermine Chavez’s popularity among Venezuela’s poor. It is probably not a coincidence that Chavez is also in the process of making deals with Iran, Russia and Belarus for large-scale housing projects. Such projects not only allow the president to boost his image among his constituency, they can be used for money laundering.

Status: This law is being debated in the National Assembly.

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I think you will enjoy this intelligence report from STRATFOR.

Cuban entrepreneurs who hire employees will have to pay a 25 percent payroll tax on their salaries, and all Cubans who are self-employed must put 25 percent of their income into a social security system from which they will eventually draw a pension, according to new economic regulations published by the Cuban government, AP reported Oct. 25. The law also establishes many deductions for raw materials, transportation and other business expenses. The new regulations will allow any permanent resident of Cuba over the age of 17 to start their own business and citizens can also apply for licenses for more than one business.

https://www.stratfor.com/sitrep/20101025_cuba_more_new_economic_regulations

Get the STRATFOR Mobile App for breaking news and insightful analysis of global economic, military, security and political developments. STRATFOR gives you the Intelligence Behind the Headlines.

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Demolition in El Frío Ranch

It was seized by the government of President Hugo Chávez in March 2009 upon the grounds of environmental protection


The Páez House, the emblem and centerpiece of El Frío Ranch, before the seizure Dossier
The house that once belonged to General José Antonio Páez, a hero of the Venezuelan independence; the core of El Frío Ranch and preserved for almost 150 years, is nowadays dilapidated after its premises were seized by the government of President Hugo Chávez. The image of two times dramatically shows the mood of a revolution.


Located in western Apure state, El Frío was not only one of the major cattle raising centers in the country, with 20,000 heads of cattle, but also among the most specialized natural biodiversity reservoirs in the Western Hemisphere, as well as a research center into ecological cattle raising and a renowned conservation center both inside and outside Venezuela.


The Páez House was the main house in the ranch. It accommodated the corporate administrative and professional staff. It had two big dining rooms, two kitchens and two living rooms. The gardens of the house, nowadays unroofed and in ruins, are being used as parking lot for incoming and outgoing official vehicles. The former hustle and bustle of a productive business was replaced with military officers who guard the ranch with AK-103 slung across their backs and staff in red T-shirts attending the courses of political ideology given by Cubans.


Decree on expropriation
In March 2008, the National Lands Institute declared the exceptional recovery of the plot of land called El Frío Ranch. According to Desirée Rodríguez, the corporate legal counsel, the action started in the absence of the due administrative procedure concerning land recovery. The ranch of 64,000 hectares belonged for more than a century to the Maldonados; it was incorporated as Invega in 1948 and its ownership chain comes from colonial times.


In January 2005, the local chapter of the National Lands Institute in Apure state commenced an administrative proceeding for wastelands against El Frío. In early 2009, after a request made by folk music singer Cristóbal Jiménez in the Sunday TV and radio show Aló Presidente (Hello, President!), the government resumed the confiscatory process. On March 31, seizure was carried out.


The results
The government presently has the whole property of El Frío Ranch without having paid one single bolivar. It is known that part of the 20,000 animals that used to graze in the wetlands have been killed for provision of beef, but nobody knows about the recipient of the sale proceeds.


Rodríguez claimed that the reservation areas include Guariquito ravine, where fishing is banned, but practiced now. A river port was built there and vessels come to get fish.


In addition to cattle, the reservation is the refuge of 7,000 deers, thousand capybaras, the giant nutria, the anteater, the puma, the freshwater dolphin, anacondas and small alligators. One of the most noteworthy projects was preservation and reproduction of the endangered Orinoco caiman. The project started in 1996 and managed by the local biological station succeeded in the reproduction of 2,500 caimans that were released in Guairuito ravine. In 2008, the ranch had the third largest population of reptiles in the country, particularly in Macanillal ravine. In its wetlands cattle breeding remained low to favor the best environmental conditions.


Journalist Ramón Hernández tells in his book “Story of dispossession,” next to be released that each year, near 300 undergraduate and graduate students from all universities and colleges across the nation would visit the site to complete their studies in ecology, animal protection and environment. Also, Carolina Foundation and the Spanish government implemented a master course in Management of Biodiversity in the Tropic. Latin American students used to explore at El Frío Ranch environmentally friendly cattle breeding, reintroduction of endangered species and recovery of native horses.


Today, there is glaring abandonment of farms and biological stations. Attorney Rodríguez complained that high-ranking government officers and persons of the ruling party surreptitiously engage in illegal hunting there.


The agricultural failure
Not knowing about the issue, after the seizure of El Frío Ranch, President Chávez heralded at the seized premises that Apure state would become a rice-growing superpower. Taking issue with experts, who said that the soil is V and VI class with few nutrients and able for large-scale cattle breeding, Chinese and Vietnamese were brought there to sow rice. The crop was a total failure. The delusive estimates of Elías Jaua, then Minister of Agriculture and Lands, never accomplished. Today, Venezuela needs to import 450,000 tons of rice, accounting for 40 percent of the domestic consumption. To the contrary, until 2004, Venezuela had been self-sufficient in that item and exported 120,000 tons.


While no numbers on production and profitability are known of the ranch, now managed by the socialist company Marisela, the payroll rose by 234 versus 140 workers during the previous administration. Most of the payroll was dismissed shortly after the seizure. Workers are still waiting for collection of their severance payment. Interestingly, Hernández said: “In order to bolster self-government and people’s self-defense among workers and communities for food sovereignty and integral defense of the nation, the company (Marisela) trains 1,000 militiamen with the help of the armed forces.”
twitter:@folivares10

Translated by Conchita Delgado

Francisco Olivares
EL UNIVERSAL

Demolition in El Frío Ranch – Daily News – EL UNIVERSAL

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