The uprising that started yesterday in western Venezuela, Zulia state south of Lake Maracaibo, was in reaction to the confiscation of large areas of agricultural land. The Chavez regime has during the last few years confiscated a large amount of agricultural and producing land. A significant amount of that has now been abandoned, leading to fears of lack of food, or even starvation.
This is of course precisely what happened when Stalin eliminated the farmers of Ukraine, the main grain-producing area of Europe; starvation in the entire Soviet Union. My grandfather was there as a visitor just after the confiscation, and understood that there were no farmers on the farm. They didn’t even know how to use a plow! A similar destiny can come to Venezuela if the people don’t rise up. Luckily, they are aware of the risk, and they are rising up for precisely that reason, as this article explains.
After Chavez confiscated grain-producing farms in western Venezuela yesterday, the farmers blocked roads. Tanks were called in to clear the roads, but more people joined the rebellion, Twitter being used for the rallying calls. Tweets this morning say that the authorities claim to have cleared the road, but the farmers are in a meeting as I type this, planning for new actions to retake the farms and avoid a starvation disaster in Venezuela.
It seems that this is a moment of truth for Venezuela. The number of people that take to the streets, and the success of a general strike called tomorrow, may determine the future of the country. This reminds me of the general strike in Finland, then part of Russia, in 1905. The whites and reds joined forces against a very repressive Russian regime – and managed to get democracy back. In fact, Finland became the first place where women could both vote and be elected to public office. Perhaps not entirely immaterial is the fact that someone murdered Bobrikov, a much hated governor sent by the Tsar of Russia. But I am digressing; the point is that when the people unites, not even the Tsar of Russia can stand up to it. And in Finland, unlike in Russia, they saved democracy – to this day. There is hope for Venezuela, but it requires that people take to the streets, peacefully.
If Chavez kills innocent people who refuse to move, he loses. If he doesn’t, they don’t move. That is the strategy.
Links: La Verdad (interview with a 94-year old farmer whose workers threw out the military, plus accounts of the thousands of cattle and hectares seized yesterday on dairy farms). La Nacion (“protests continue”). El Nacional (“protests continue”). Video of the minister of agriculture, pistol in belt, firing up the military and the mob before they went, allegedly assisted by the narco-terrorists in FARC, to expel Venezuelan farmers from their inherited lands.