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The Venezuelan Effort to Build a New Food and Agriculture System

Christina Schiavoni is co-director of an NGO based in New York City, where she specializes in food and agriculture issues. William Camacaro, originally from Venezuela, is co-founder of the Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle of New York and is an artist, radio host, and activist in New York City. Additional work of the authors, including materials to supplement this essay, is available at the Revolución Alimentaria blog. Also of Interest: streaming audio interview with Christina Schiavoni and William Camacaro courtesy of Against The Grain. Trouble with the streaming audio? Download the .mp3 for offline listening: Schiavoni-Camacaro Venezuelan Food & Agriculture interview.

In April 2008, as people around the world took to the streets to protest the global food crisis and the lack of political will to address it, a crowd of a different nature gathered in Venezuela. Afro-Venezuelan cacao farmers and artisanal fishermen of the coastal community of Chuao came together to witness their president pledge that the food crisis would not hinder Venezuela’s advancements in food and agriculture. “There is a food crisis in the world, but Venezuela is not going to fall into that crisis,” said Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frías. “You can be sure of that. Actually, we are going to help other nations who are facing this crisis.”1 He then went on to describe Venezuela’s most recent developments in food and agriculture, as well as the work that still lay ahead. This was one of several weekly addresses that Chávez had dedicated to food and agriculture as the world food crisis unfolded.

It was evident to the people of Chuao that their president’s words were matched by action. Despite its reputation as the home of some of the world’s finest cacao, Chuao had been largely overlooked by past governments. Today, the cacao producers of Chuao benefit from previously unimaginable government support, in the form of new storage facilities, office space, and classrooms, access to low-interest credit, technical assistance in organic production, and even loans to support what is now a thriving agritourism industry. Traditional chocolate makers are running new microenterprises through the support of educational workshops and loans. Additionally, plans are underway for a new processing plant that will enable the community to derive greater value from its cacao. Chuao Cacao Cooperative president Alcides Herrera explains that these efforts are not just about cacao production, but also about reclaiming Venezuela’s agricultural heritage and supporting the communities who have preserved this heritage over the years.2

Artisanal fishing is the other main industry of Chuao, and fishermen now have new equipment, such as nets, boats, and a cooling facility. No longer competing with large-scale, environmentally destructive bottom-trawling ships, they are now catching new varieties of fish and fish of larger sizes compared to previous years. This indicates that the local fish stocks are being replenished, and the fishermen consider their role to be stewards in this process. While they once depended upon intermediaries to sell their fish for export, they now sell the majority of their fish to the government for distribution through its subsidized network of supermarkets. This direct relationship with the government not only ensures fair prices for the fishermen, but also “enables the people of Venezuela to eat good fish for good prices,” Chuao fisherman Hernando Liendo proudly explains.3

Although not yet representative of the entire nation, the case of Chuao is not an isolated example. It reflects a transformation of Venezuela’s food and agriculture system, as part of the country’s broader national process of social change, the Bolivarian Revolution. While many other countries are just beginning to turn their attention to issues of national food security, as necessitated by the most recent global food crisis, the people of Venezuela and their government have been actively tackling these issues for the past decade. They have been working to ensure not only the human right to food, but also the ability of the country to feed itself. The efficacy of these efforts is now being put to the test, as the Venezuelan government strives to buffer its population from a series of global crises, while partnering with neighboring countries to coordinate a regional response. The discussion in this chapter examines the Venezuelan effort to build a new food and agriculture system.

Reclaiming Agrarian Roots

Ironically, the very oil wealth that today is being used to rebuild Venezuela’s food and agriculture system is largely to blame for its prior dismantling. Venezuela is a country with agrarian roots, as indicated by its music, art, and culinary traditions. However, the discovery of vast petroleum reserves and the subsequent development of a major oil exporting industry led to the neglect of the country’s agriculture sector over the course of the twentieth century, as an influx of foreign currency made it relatively cheap to import food and other goods.4

An abandoned agricultural sector meant abandoned rural communities, leading to a mass exodus of people from the countryside into urban areas, particularly in and around the capital of Caracas. By 1960, the percentage of the population living in rural areas had dropped by nearly half to just 35 percent, and then to a mere 12 percent by the 1990s, making Venezuela home to one of the most urbanized populations in Latin America.5 Additionally, with domestic food production greatly reduced, Venezuela became the only Latin American country to be a net importer of agricultural products.6

By the time Chávez was elected at the end of 1998, Venezuela’s remaining rural communities were in crisis, and the majority of those who had migrated into cities and urban margins faced substandard housing and sanitation, lack of adequate social services, and lack of decent job opportunities.7 Over half of the population lived in poverty, and 42.5 percent lived in extreme poverty.8 Venezuela depended on food imports for more than 70 percent of its food supply, putting many staples out of reach for the poor. Such dependency on food imports also put the population as a whole in a highly vulnerable situation.

Given these challenges, a key strategic priority of the Bolivarian Revolution has been to restructure Venezuela’s food and agriculture system, under the framework of “food sovereignty.” Food sovereignty is a concept originating from the Vía Campesina international peasants’ network, defined, in short, as the right of people to determine their own food and agricultural policies.9 It involves restoring control over food distribution and food production from corporate agribusinesses and international financial institutions back to individual nations/tribes/peoples—and ultimately, to all those who produce the food as well as the general non-farming population. Venezuela is among the first countries in the world to have officially adopted the framework of food sovereignty, and has since been joined by several others, including Mali, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nepal.

Laying the Foundation for Food Sovereignty

It is important to place Venezuela’s food sovereignty efforts within the context of the Bolivarian Revolution, as the two are inextricably linked. The following are four core principles of the Bolivarian Revolution that figure heavily into efforts for food sovereignty:

Bolivarianism: The Bolivarian Revolution is named for Símon Bolívar, who led struggles for independence from colonial and imperialist forces throughout much of Latin America in the early 1800s. To this day, Bolívar represents a vision for a liberated and united Latin America. In Venezuela’s struggle for food sovereignty, Bolivarianism points to a food system free of corporate control, neoliberal economic policies, and unfair trade rules. Internationally, Venezuela is forging alternative systems of trade and cooperation that promote the integration of Latin America and support each country’s right to food sovereignty. 

Socialism of the Twenty-First Century: This involves building new social and economic systems based on equality, social inclusion, shared wealth and resources, and true participation of all members of society. In terms of food and agriculture, this means returning the means of production to the people through agrarian reform and cooperatively run farms and food-processing factories, as well as the treatment of food as a basic human right rather than a commodity for profit.

Endogenous Development: Meaning “development from within,” this implies first looking inside, not outside, to meet the country’s development needs, building upon Venezuela’s own unique assets. This means valuing the agricultural knowledge and experience of women, indigenous, Afro-descendents, and other typically marginalized campesino (peasant farming) populations as fundamental to Venezuela’s food sovereignty. This also means preserving Venezuela’s native seeds, traditional farming methods, and culinary practices.

Participatory Democracy: This form of governance empowers citizens to play a direct role in politics, having a say in decisions that impact their lives. In Venezuela, it is facilitated by community councils, of which there are over 35,000 (and growing) throughout the country.10 Community councils and other forms of citizen organizing are enabling communities to monitor their food needs, shape food policies, and take control over their local food systems, much as local “food policy councils” in the United States strive to do.

Venezuela’s new constitution, adopted by popular referendum in 1999, laid the foundation for food sovereignty through several key articles. For example, article 305 states:

The State shall promote sustainable agriculture as the strategic basis for overall rural development, and consequently shall guarantee the population a secure food supply, defined as the sufficient and stable availability of food within the national sphere and timely and uninterrupted access to the same for consumers….Food production is in the national interest and is fundamental to the economic and social development of the Nation.11

Article 306 addresses rural development and support for agricultural activity, while article 307 addresses land issues, establishing the basis for passage of the Law of the Land in 2001, a critical instrument for Venezuela’s agrarian reform.

Land for Food, Food for People

“Agricultural land, first and foremost, is for producing food, food for people,” says National Assembly member and lifelong campesino Braulio Álvarez.12 Behind these simple words are years of intense struggle over the right to land for farming. Disparities in land access and ownership in Venezuela have historically been so extreme that, according to a 1997 agricultural census, 5 percent of landowners controlled 75 percent of the land, and 75 percent of landowners controlled only 6 percent of the land.13 Much of the land concentrated in the hands of the large landholders sits idle or underused. Such landholdings are known as latifundios. The Venezuelan constitution deems latifundios to be contrary to the interests of society and charges the state with guaranteeing the food-producing potential of both privately and collectively held land. Accordingly, the Law of the Land requires that agricultural land be used for food production and gives communities a legal framework for organizing themselves to settle and farm idle lands. According to government figures released in January 2009, nearly 2.7 million hectares (6.6 million acres) of latifundio land have been returned to productivity since the passage of the Law of the Land.14 Most of the recovered land is now directly under the stewardship of farmers, many of whom have organized themselves into cooperatives. A portion of the land is also dedicated to strategic projects in support of food sovereignty.

Recently, Chávez has called upon local and state authorities to do more to facilitate the agrarian reform process, as it has faced many obstacles. It is important to note that the law allows for the expropriation of private land only under a specific set of circumstances and through an extensive legal process that includes compensation to the landowner at current market value. Nevertheless, the law has raised the ire of many of the larger landholders—some have even resorted to paying death squads to assassinate campesinos settled on recovered land. To date, over two hundred campesinos have been killed in acts of retaliation against the land reform process.15 Despite such adversities, approximately a third of the latifundio land existing in 1998 has been recovered, benefitting 180,000 families.16 Large parcels of latifundio once held by a single owner have been transformed into entire rural communities. For these communities, and for the landless peasants still striving for the right to land, the struggle goes on.

Tools for Success

There is a wide range of support to nurture the success of small and mid-scale farms, from credit and technical assistance to social services and market access. In the past, farmers were regularly denied access to credit or charged exploitative interest rates. Now, there are laws requiring both public and private banks to provide credit to farmers at reasonable interest rates, as well as a special fund and an agricultural bank specifically aimed at supplying low-interest and no-interest credit to farmers. According to Eduardo Escobar, former president of the Agricultural Bank of Venezuela, “Formerly, agricultural planning was top-down and imposed upon communities. Now it is a much more participatory process. Community councils determine credit needs based on social needs. All the offices here are spaces for community processes, discussions, and consensus-building.”17

Thanks to these efforts, agricultural credit has increased significantly, from approximately $164 million in 1999 to approximately $7.6 billion in 2008.18 Additionally, several new laws were passed in 2008 to further support and protect farmers, particularly those most vulnerable. These measures include debt eradication (through a Plan Zero Debt) and relief for farmers facing crop failures and other adverse circumstances, similar to an insurance program. In recognition of the critical service that farmers provide to society, these supports aim to serve as a safety net that enables them to stay on their land and keep farming.

Farmers also receive support in the form of necessary inputs and equipment, such as tractors and seeds, as well as training and technical assistance. Through the Campo Adentro (Into the Countryside) program, for instance, 2,000 Cuban agronomists specializing in organic agriculture are partnered with Venezuelan cooperatives to provide consultation and training, as Venezuela nurtures its own fleet of agricultural specialists.29 Local farmer-to-farmer programs also facilitate exchange of knowledge and skills. Additionally, rural populations benefit from a wide range of government-sponsored programs, or “missions,” that work in partnership with local communities. The missions cover services such as housing, sanitation, food access, education, medical care, childcare, and phone and internet access. These critical services aim to reach even the remotest communities, including the communities of Venezuela’s fifty-four indigenous groups.

Also essential to farmers are access to stable markets and assurance of adequate income. Mechanisms addressing this include price stabilization and subsidies for staple crops, and direct sales to a government-run agricultural corporation as well as to consumers in community markets. These mechanisms are decreasing dependence on intermediaries, which have historically exploited farmers and consumers alike. Similar support mechanisms are already in place for Venezuela’s small-scale fishing industry that has faced similar challenges to those of the farmers.

Yielding Results

In its commitment to food sovereignty, the Venezuelan government has taken unprecedented steps to bolster its agricultural sector, as evidenced by an increase of 5,783 percent in agricultural financing from 1998 to 2007.20 This investment in agriculture is driving Venezuela’s ability to feed itself through its own food production. With continued progress over recent years, Venezuela’s food production capacity is currently at 21 million tons, which represents a 24 percent overall increase from 1998.21 When these figures are analyzed in terms of specific food products, it is clear that the foods of greatest importance to the Venezuelan diet have achieved significantly higher increases in production.

By 2008, Venezuela reached levels of self sufficiency in its two most important grains, corn and rice, with production increases of 132 percent and 71 percent respectively since 1998.22 The country also achieved self-sufficiency in pork, representing an increase in production of nearly 77 percent since 1998. Furthermore, Venezuela is on its way to reaching self-sufficiency in a number of other important staple foods, including beef, chicken, and eggs, for which domestic production currently meets 70 percent, 85 percent, and 80 percent of national demand, respectively. Milk production has increased by 900 percent to 1.96 million tons, fulfilling 55 percent of national demand. Spurred by a “scarcity” of milk created by private distributors in early 2008, the government recently pledged its commitment to attain self-sufficiency in milk production in the near future. Many other crops have seen significant increases over the past decade, including black beans (143 percent), root vegetables (115 percent), and sunflowers for cooking oil production (125 percent). This suggests a prioritization of culturally important crops and a focus on matching domestic agricultural production with national consumer demands.

In a remarkable reversal of the trends of recent decades, Venezuela is actually becoming poised to export certain crops (in addition to coffee and cacao, which are already exported in limited amounts), after surpassing levels sufficient to meet national demand. The country is already in a position to export pork—currently at 113 percent of national demand—and is projected to have a sufficient surplus of corn for export within a year. Both Chávez and Agricultural Minister Elías Jaua have emphasized that the goal is for Venezuela to produce enough food to feed its own population while supporting other countries that lack sufficient food to meet domestic needs. Venezuela hopes to play this role out of recognition that support from its neighbors in the form of food imports has been critical during its own transition from food dependence to food sovereignty.

Working with Nature

Not only are Venezuelans working to increase domestic food production, they are concerned with how food is being produced. Miguel Angel Nuñez of the Venezuela-based Institute for the Production and Research of Tropical Agriculture (IPIAT) describes how Venezuela’s farmers are leading the country onto the cutting edge of the movement for agroecology.23 Agroecology essentially means farming with nature rather than against it—by building up soil as the basis for productivity, using sustainable inputs, and working with natural cycles. Nuñez explains that an agroecological approach to food production provides a viable alternative to the one-size-fits-all model of industrial agriculture, which degrades the soil, creates extra waste while requiring extra cost, and fails to reach the same levels of productivity as systems adapted to Venezuela’s unique tropical conditions. It also requires expensive, often toxic, external inputs, such as synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, sold by multinational agribusinesses. Nuñez and the farmers he works with view dependence upon such inputs to be in direct conflict with the concept of food sovereignty, as well as an affront to human health and the environment. 

For many Venezuelan farmers, the process of reclaiming agricultural land also involves reclaiming agricultural practices that respect both ecology and culture. Increasingly, they are returning to traditional crop varieties and growing techniques, composting to boost soil fertility, saving and exchanging traditional seeds, diversifying crops, using natural forms of pest control, and forming networks to exchange agroecological knowledge and techniques. The government has developed a variety of ways to support these farmer-led advances. Venezuela is one of the few countries in the world to make credit available specifically for farmers engaged in agroecological projects.24 The government has also launched twenty-four laboratories for the development of biological pest control and fertilizers, “in an effort to eliminate the toxic agrochemicals of Bayer, Cargill, Monsanto, and others,” explains Agricultural Minister Jaua.25

In 2008, the Law for Integrated Agricultural Health officially established agroecology as the scientific basis for sustainable agriculture in Venezuela and mandated the phasing out of toxic agrochemicals. According to Nuñez, while there are still divergent and contradictory views within the government as to which path Venezuela’s agricultural sector should take, the government has consistently showed a willingness to learn from social movements. The new law is a direct result of such dialogue, as was the passage of a moratorium on genetically modified crops and the founding of an agroecological institute in the state of Barinas, run in partnership with Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MST) and Vía Campesina. Now, farmers, agroecologists, and government representatives are working together to develop a National Agroecology Plan, with the goal of further advancing agroecology at all levels of Venezuelan society.

Communities Feeding Themselves

In 2002, Venezuelans received a stark reminder of the vulnerability of their food system when groups opposing the government attempted to bring the national economy to a standstill by halting oil production and shutting down other key industries over a two-month period. As part of these efforts, major food distributors withheld food supplies and many supermarkets closed. This drove home the implications of Venezuela’s heavy reliance on imported food, primarily from large corporations, as well as its reliance on private intermediaries for distribution. Since then, efforts to bolster food production in Venezuela have been met with efforts to increase the ability of communities to feed themselves.

Mercal is Venezuela’s national network of subsidized food markets, selling high-quality food at discounts averaging 40 percent off standard prices. These markets are open to people of all income levels, with particular emphasis on communities with limited food access. With 16,532 Mercal outlets throughout the country distributing more than 1.5 million tons of food to over 13 million people, Mercal has become Latin America’s largest food distribution network, according to the Venezuelan government.26 In 2008, the government launched PDVAL, a sister effort to Mercal, in an aggressive attempt to protect its population against the effects of the world food crisis as well as internal food hoarding and price speculation. PDVAL sells staple foods at regulated prices set by the government (i.e., prices that are neither subsidized as in the case of Mercal nor inflated as in the case of some private distributors).

There are 6,075 casas de alimentación, or feeding houses, throughout the country that provide home-cooked, nutritious meals to those in greatest need (e.g., pregnant women, children, senior citizens), currently benefitting around 900,000 people.27 These programs are run through a grassroots-government partnership in which the government provides food and kitchen equipment, and community members, primarily women, open up their homes and provide the people power. Feeding houses share some parallels with U.S. soup kitchens, but with the broader mission of serving as hubs of community gathering and empowerment. According to the Ministry of Nutrition, 90,000 feeding house patrons received job training and additional services in the first half of 2008.28 Furthermore, feeding houses support local agriculture by sourcing preferentially from nearby cooperatives.

Two additional initiatives to improve food security and nutrition are a national school meals program and a law guaranteeing nutritious meals for workers.29 The School Feeding Program provides universal free breakfast, lunch, and snacks to more than four million children. The Law for Workers’ Nutrition, passed in 2004, requires workplaces of twenty or more people to provide workers with either a hot meal on-site or swipe cards with “nutrition points” that are redeemable at restaurants and food stores. Venezuela’s wide range of feeding programs, combined with other forms of social support, have enabled the country to meet the first Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger and poverty ahead of the 2015 target and have also cut malnutrition-related deaths in half from 1998 to 2006.30

Social Property

While Venezuela has made major strides both in food production and food access over the past decade, a considerable challenge remains in connecting these efforts. Much of Venezuela’s infrastructure for food distribution, processing, and storage had been privatized prior to 1998. Some who realized that there was more money to be made in exporting and importing food intentionally dismantled some of the country’s agriculture and food infrastructure. This enabled a certain few to profit both from exporting Venezuelan raw agricultural products and importing processed goods for consumption. In some instances, the very same products were exported, processed, and then imported back into the country, making large profits for the middlemen to the detriment of producers, workers displaced from processing facilities, and consumers.31

The same intermediaries have continued to control much of Venezuela’s food-related infrastructure to the present time. This enables them to use food as a political tool by creating scarcities through practices such as hoarding, price inflation, and/or illegal export of food intended for domestic consumption. Such shortages occurred during the industry lockdown of 2002 and continue to occur periodically, most often around the time of elections and other politically heightened moments. Today, this issue is being tackled through a multipronged approach of regulating private food businesses, restoring previously state-owned infrastructure back to the public domain, and empowering communities to monitor and protect local food supplies.

A 2006 law renationalized silos that had been originally owned by the state and then privatized. This paved the way for a provision of the 2008 Law of Food Security and Food Sovereignty, establishing strategic reserves of staple foods. These reserves will serve the dual purpose of stabilizing prices of staple foods (i.e., by absorbing and releasing products as needed) and ensuring a secure supply of food in the event of natural disasters or human interferences. This law, which mandates storage of three months’ worth of food for the population at all times, should significantly hinder the ability of intermediaries to interfere with the steady flow of food, while also providing a critical safety net for farmers and consumers alike. Progressive farm groups in the United States have been working to pass similar legislation.32

Another important step to reclaim food-related infrastructure as “social property” has been the installation of a national network of cooperatively run processing plants for staple foods such as corn, beans, and milk. Plans are underway for ten new corn processing plants and eleven new milk processing plants in 2009 alone.33 There is also a growing network of integrated agricultural complexes, such as one in the state of Portuguesa that includes an agricultural store with low-cost products, a machinery plant, silos, and a factory for making pasta from corn and rice.

While the Law of Food Security and Food Sovereignty reaffirms each Venezuelan’s right to food, the Law in Defense of People’s Access to Goods and Services, also passed in 2008, gives communities and the government the ability to defend this right from abuse. Each community council is charged with monitoring food supply and pricing and reporting any irregularities to the state. Food companies and retail establishments found to be conducting illegal activities (e.g., under-producing, withholding, overpricing, or smuggling food) are subject to fines, and food is subject to confiscation. Failure to rectify illegal practices is potential grounds for expropriation.

National Assembly member Ulises Daal explains: “These new laws explicitly protect the private sector, but the private sector must fulfill a social function. If a company wants to open a sausage factory, the building, equipment, and materials are all the property of the company. But the concept of food production belongs to the people. If the company withholds food, it is failing to fulfill its social function.”34 Daal also emphasizes the responsibility of community councils to ensure local access to sufficient amounts of culturally appropriate food at all times. Similarly, Chávez has spoken of “new systems of (food) distribution managed by community councils.”35

A Vision of Food Sovereignty for Venezuela and Beyond

Early in 2008, in the thick of the global food crisis, Chávez promised that Venezuela’s efforts in food and agriculture would continue unhindered. Over the course of that year, Venezuela saw increased levels of food production, the inauguration of new processing plants, the launching of the PDVAL food distribution network, and the passing of groundbreaking new legislation in support of food sovereignty. At the international level, Venezuela formed bilateral agreements in mutual support of food sovereignty with numerous countries, from Argentina to China. It also led a regional response to the food crisis, including an emergency summit, a $100 million food security fund, and a shipment of 365 tons of emergency food aid to Haiti.

In early 2009, as the financial crisis dominated headlines, Chávez made a similar promise: “Despite the world financial crisis, Venezuela’s agrarian revolution will not be detained.”37 The recent decline in oil prices has led some to wonder what will become of the Bolivarian Revolution and its social programs and to point to reliance on oil wealth for social spending as a strategic flaw. Others, however, see the government using its oil wealth to diversify the economy and to build new systems that will ultimately sustain themselves. This is what Chávez claims to be doing with respect to the country’s food sovereignty efforts. A promising indication is that the UN Food and Agriculture Organization recently recognized Venezuela as having taken necessary steps to strengthen its ability and that of its neighbors to withstand the worsening global food crisis.37 As other countries throughout the world, including the United States, grapple with food issues amid global crises, perhaps they can learn from the experience of Venezuela, where political will and community empowerment are forming the basis for food sovereignty.

Notes

  1. Chris Carlson, “Venezuela Will Not be Affected by Food Crisis Says Chavez,” Venezuelanalysis.com, April 28, 2008.
  2. Alcides Herrera, personal communication, January 5, 2009.
  3. Hernando Liendo, personal communication, January 6, 2009.
  4. Gregory Wilpert, “Land for People Not for Profit in Venezuela,” Venezuelanalysis.com, August 23, 2005. Wilpert provides an excellent overview of the decline of agriculture in Venezuela (through an economic phenomenon known as “Dutch Disease”), while providing insights into the early stages of the current land reform process.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. The living conditions in Venezuela’s poor urban communities, or barrios, leading up to the Bolivarian Revolution, are described vividly by Charles Hardy in Cowboy in Caracas (Curbstone Press, 2007).
  8. Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Comunicación y la Información, “La pobreza extrema en Venezuela ha disminuido en 55% desde 1998 y la pobreza general 37,6%,” March 13, 2009.
  9. For a full definition of food sovereignty, as defined by the participants of the Nyéléni 2007 Forum for Food Sovereignty, see http://www.nyeleni2007.org.
  10. Ulises Daal, personal communication, January 15, 2009.
  11. Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the United States, Article VI of the Bolivarian Constitution, March 13 2009.
  12. Braulio Álvarez, personal communication, June 3, 2007.
  13. Wilpert, “Land for People not for Profit in Venezuela.”
  14. República Bolivariana de Venezuela, “10 Años de Gestión del Gobierno Revolucionario,” presented in Caracas, January, 2009.
  15. The latest campesino to be assassinated at the time of this writing is Nelson López, 38, who was killed on February 12, 2009, in the state of Yaracuy, after receiving fourteen bullet shots. Braulio Álvarez dug his grave as his friends and family, including his three young children, looked on. The authors wish to dedicate this piece to him.
  16. Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Agricultura y Tierras, Boletín Electrónico No 72, February 2, 2009, Braulio Álvarez, personal communication, January 3, 2009.
  17. Eduardo Escobar, personal communication, June 2, 2007.
  18. República Bolivariana de Venezuela, “10 Años de Gestión del Gobierno Revolucionario.”
  19. Elías Jaua, personal communication, June 2, 2007.
  20. República Bolivariana de Venezuela, “10 Años de Gestión del Gobierno Revolucionario.”
  21. Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Agricultura y Tierras, Boletín Electrónico No 72.
  22. República Bolivariana de Venezuela, “10 Años de Gestión del Gobierno Revolucionario.” All the figures in this paragraph are from this source.
  23. For a collection of articles by Miguel Angel Nuñez on agroecology and food sovereignty in Venezuela, see In Motion Magazine.
  24. Miguel Ángel Nuñez, personal communication, January 22, 2009.
  25. Elías Jaua, personal communication, June 2, 2007.
  26. República Bolivariana de Venezuela, “Mensaje del Ciudadano Presidente de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela a la Asamblea Nacional 2008,” presented in Caracas, January, 2009.
  27. Ibid.
  28. Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Alimentación, “Gestión del Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Alimentación–1er Semestre 2008,” March 13, 2009.
  29. República Bolivariana de Venezuela, “Mensaje del Ciudadano Presidente de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela a la Asamblea Nacional 2008.”
  30. Chris Carlson, Venezuela on Track to Meet UN Millennium Goals, Venezuelanalysis.com, October 18, 2007; Mark Weisbrot, Rebecca Ray, and Luis Sandoval, The Chávez Administration at 10 Years: The Economy and Social Indicators, Center for Economic and Policy Research, February, 2009.
  31. Gabriel Pool, personal communication, February 21, 2009.
  32. For policy proposals on reinstating food reserves in the U.S., see http://www.nffc.net.
  33. Hugo Chávez, Alo Presidente, Portuguesa, January 11, 2009.
  34. Ulises Daal, personal communication, January 15, 2009.
  35. Hugo Chávez, Alo Presidente.
  36. Ibid.
  37. James Suggett, “U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Says Venezuela Prepared for World Food Crisis,” Venezuelanalysis.com, February 27, 2009.
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