from Weekly News Update on the Americas

On Sept. 5 Venezuelan troops under the command of a general took control of a tomato-processing plant owned by the Pittsburgh-based company H.J. Heinz in Caicara in the eastern state of Monagas. The move by the military came after state governor Jose Gregorio Briceno, an ally of left-populist president Hugo Chavez, encouraged campesino groups to occupy it. “The governor decided to seize the plant so it can be protected from looters and later be put to use,” said Angelica Rivero, a spokesperson for the governor.

Heinz reportedly bought the small plant in 1997 and has not operated it for eight years. On Sept. 6 Heinz spokespeople admitted the plant was idle, blaming tomato growers who they said had not honored contracts with Heinz. Gov. Briceno charged that Heinz had bankrupted the growers, who would now be able to run the plant themselves. Heinz says it has a total of 700 employees in Venezuela and has “full confidence in the future of the country.” The company is “open to dialogue and negotiations” and is requesting meetings with Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel and Agriculture and Land Minister Antonio Albarran.

In July Chavez warned companies that plants that were idle or operating below capacity could be expropriated and restored to full operation under worker co-management programs. The government is currently carrying out a survey of some 700 idle plants and 1,149 others said to be “partially paralyzed.” Venezuela’s 1999 Constitution guarantees property rights; an expropriation requires a court decision and “fair compensation (Miami Herald, Sept. 6, 7: Labor Educator, Sept. 9)

On Sept. 10 National Land Institute (INTI) president Richard Vivas said that 317 estates with a total of 3 million hectares were under study for expropriation because of failure to use land. On Sept. 8 soldiers occupied a 27,000-hectare ranch owned by the Vestey Group, Britain’s largest British meat producer, in the western state of Apure. There are reportedly plans to occupy two other Vestey ranches in the area. Also during the week of Sept. 5, Lorenzo Mendoza, president of the Venezuelan food and beverage company Empresas Polar, issued a press release saying the military had occupied its installations in the western state of Barinas “on instructions from…Albarran.” (El Nuevo Herald, Miami, Sept. 11)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 11


Citgo, the US gasoline distribution affiliate wholly owned by the Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), announced on Aug. 31 that it would donate $1 million to help in rescue efforts for areas of the Southern US affected by Hurricane Katrina. “The funds will be directed to rescue organizations in the affected areas,” said Citgo president Felix Rodriguez in a statement from the company’s Houston headquarters. Rodriguez said the donation had the total support of PDVSA and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez Frias. “Our hearts are with the victims of this terrible tragedy and Citgo is prepared to offer its assistance,” said Rodriguez.

On Aug. 29, Chavez had said he was offering to send the Venezuelan international rescue brigade, as well as fuel, to help with the disaster in the US. The Venezuelan foreign ministry reiterated the offer on Aug. 31, but US State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said he was unaware of it. (El Nuevo Herald, Sept. 1 from AFP)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 11


Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also WW4 REPORT #113

See our blog post on Chavez’ historic September visit to New York City


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Oct. 1, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution