Even the poor are losing in Venezuela

Venezuela’s Marxist dictatorship is destroying property rights across the country. We’ve noted in the past how it’s happened in the countryside, at sugar farms, on nature reserves, among the large and small corporations, and in apartment and office buildings. But these aren’t the only places – the destruction of property rights also is happening in the poorest neighborhoods.

In an unexpectedly good article, Alex Holland, a writer at Venezuelanalysis, a Chavista propaganda organ, unwittingly describes how even poor shantytown dwellerss with desperate need for title-deed ownership are being badly affected by collectivization, which is destroying the weak property rights these urban poor once had. The writer explains the horrible dynamic with perfect clarity and honesty and then ineptly defends it, making the Marxist propaganda easy for us to gloss over. Evidently, the facts on the ground were just too big for this writer.

Here is how it happens:

People who live in the urban barrios, those ramshackle red brick houses that starkly encircle Caracas on mountain after mountain cannot just get title deed but must join a 100-200-strong collective called an “Urban Land Committee” or, CTU, first. If they don’t join one of these, they get no title deed and are shut out of the system. The system came into being based on a 2002 decree by Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez.

There are over 5,200 of these collectives, averaging 147 houses in each, representing more than a fifth of Venezuelans, or 5.7 million of Venezuela’s 25-million strong population. The author notes that the explicit aim of them is social “change.”

Then the issue of who the land really belongs to is brought up.

In a loaded passage, the article says many of the slum houses are on land that is vaguely described as belonging to other people. Some houses are said to be longstanding squats that no one did anything about. That’s one justification for ascertaining who has a right to property. The other is of numbers. Large numbers, as in collectives, not length of stay, or effort to get title deed, or tax payments, or investments, just numbers, are the other criteria for determining who has a right to occupy a property.



5 thoughts on “Even the poor are losing in Venezuela”

  1. The American Left always discredits itself by cozying up to left-wing dictators like Hugo Chavez. My heart goes out to Cindy Sheehan, who lost a son in Iraq, but how many people are going to take her seriously after she appeared at that political rally arm-in-arm with Chavez? Did she consider that a political dissenter wearing a t-shirt with a protest message to a Chavez rally in Venuzuela, (like the t-shirt with the anti-war message she wore to the State-of-the-Union address) wouldn’t merely be escorted out of the building, but straight to prison?

    Human Rights News reports: “Venezuela: Curbs on Free Expression Tightened

    Santiago, March 24, 2005) — Amendments to Venezuela’s Criminal Code that entered into force last week may stifle press criticism of government authorities and restrict the public’s ability to monitor government actions, Human Rights Watch said today.

    .. The amendments extend the scope of existing provisions that make it a criminal offense to insult or show disrespect for the president and other government authorities. Venezuela’s measures run counter to a continent-wide trend to repeal such “disrespect” (or “desacato”) laws. In recent years, Argentina, Costa Rica, Paraguay, and Peru have already repealed such laws, and other countries like Chile and Panama are currently considering legislation that would do so.

    The human rights bodies of the United Nations and of the Organization of American States have repeatedly urged states to repeal such provisions.”


  2. My brother-in-law has several relatives who live, well actually now lived, in Venezuela and had been part of the gas/oil industry. They are now political refugees in the U.S. because they had been placed government lists as suspect anti-Chavez agitators.

  3. Dean and JBL –

    Interesting thing about the situation in Venezuala and the one developing in Bolivia is that it highlights the frequency in which 3rd World democracies descend into tyranny.

    Now, suppose we invaded Venezuala and toppled Chavez. We then hang around and deal with insurgency of his followers. Eventually, a new government takes over after a massive cost in U.S. blood and treasure. Within 10 years, a new Chavez is right back in power and it was all wasted effort.

    That is the history of U.S. interventions in the 3rd World, whether it is Haiti, Nicaragua, the Phillippines, Honduras, or Guatamala. The harder we tried to bring ‘democracy’ the less successful we have been.

    I can’t stand Chavez, but my advice is to simply leave him alone. Attacking him rhetorically makes him a hero throughout the Latin American world among leftist populists. He’s an annoyance and he is likely to hang onto power for as long as possible. But he’s not so big a problem that I would risk much to get rid of him ourselves.

    If Venezualan democracy can be so easily co-opted at the ballot box, then perhaps they aren’t ready for it anyway. When they are, then they can go about it on their own.

  4. Glen, what’s your analysis of the difference between US influence in the countries you mention and US (and Allied) influence in Germany and Japan following WW II?

  5. Huge difference. For starters, Germany was one of the leading civilizations in Europe. Prior to its demonization as part of the general WWI propaganda effort, the Germans were respected but weren’t thought of as terrible ogres or anything of the sort.

    Following WWII, the Germans had had enough of war and basically went pacifist. The Germans of today say that they are the spiritual children of Gunther Grass, not Hitler. That sentiment was already brewing in Germany prior to the actual end of WWII. Germany was eager to rejoin the West, where it belonged as an advanced industrial state, and there was an added incentive. The Soviets were next door, and cooperation with the United States and NATO was the best way to ensure that at least some Germans stayed free.

    Japan – that one is easy. They lost a war and saw their homeland completely devastated, just like the Germans. They had only themselves to blame, and they knew it. But beyond that, the Emperor told the Japanese that their duty was to cooperate with the Americans. The Emperor was god, so the Japanese obeyed.

    Following WWII, it also made sense to cooperate with the U.S. Japan was an industrial power, but whose infrastructure was destroyed and whose native leadership was deathly afraid of communist and Soviet influence.

    These kinds of elements don’t exist in 3rd World countries. First of all, none of them really ever threatened us. Invasions tend to leave a major feeling of victimization that breads resentment and violence. Second, the governments we overthrow are usually popular with a large segment of the population, either for tribal, class, ethnic, or religious reasons. The governments in power are someone’s protector, someone’s benefactor. When we upset the apple cart, that creates enemies at the start. The more we stick around to help deal with these enemies, the more enemies we create on all sides.

    Much has been made about WWII’s occupation of Germany and Japan as some kind of model for nation building. It isn’t. These were unique cases that will probably never be repeated. The other situations, however, seem to be on menu for the foreseeable future.

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