On Oct. 4, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez announced the expropriation of a subsidiary of the British Vestey Group, and of Agroisleña, a major agricultural firm founded by Spaniards half a century ago. In a nationally televised telephone interview, Chávez said Venezuela would take complete control of hundreds of thousands of hectares, and some 130,000 head of cattle, owned by La Compañía Inglesa, which is controlled by the Vestey Group. Vestey has owned property in the country since 1909. Chávez said compensation had been negotiated with the company. Since 2001, the government has expropriated (with compensation) some three million hectares of land, and has issued permits to tens of thousands of families to work a total of two million hectares.
Chávez first announced the expropriation of Agroisleña on his TV show “Alo Presidente” on Oct. 3, a week after the country’s elections. He also said the state would take over a further 250,000 hectares of land in coming weeks, and called on the armed forces to train a popular militia. Addressing military commanders, Chávez said: “Whoever saw an unarmed militia? We need territorial militias made up of producers, workers, farmers, the people in arms.”
In the new single-chamber legislature elected in the Sept. 26 vote, 98 of the 165 seats will be occupied by lawmakers of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and its ally, the small Communist Party; two lawmakers will be former Chávez supporters belonging to the leftist Patria Para Todos (PPT) party, and 65 will be from the opposition Coalition for Democratic Unity (MUD). The current parliament is composed almost exclusively of Chávez supporters—as it has been since 2005, when the opposition boycotted the parliamentary elections. The only opposition lawmakers at present are less than a score belonging to the breakaway PPT. (IPS, Oct. 6)
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