Venezuela: Mayor of Caracas announces land expropriations

Juan Baretto threatens to seize golf greens

On 29 August, the Mayor of Caracas, Juan Baretto, who is closely linked to President Chavez, announced in the official publication of the city council the expropriation of two golf greens.

This is the outcome of a process that begun a couple of days ago, during a public meeting to discuss ‘The security of citizens’, in the Teressa Care?o Theatre. During the meeting, the Mayor of Caracas attacked the leaders of the districts of Chacao and Baruta, respectively Leopoldo López and Henríquez Capriles Radonsky. Both are members of the opposition party, Primeria Justicia. Juan Baretto denounced their involvement in the 2002 coup against Chavez, and their heavy handed tactics when ejecting squatters from unoccuppied buildings in the districts under their jurisdiction. In the past few weeks, Leopoldo López and Henríque Capriles Radonsky evicted families who were living for more than 20 years in the same place, just because they could not produce any ‘documents’. The Mayor of Caracas ended his comments at the Teressa Care?o Theatre meeting with a call to expropriate some of the 147 hectares (or 363 acres) of land belonging to the prestigious golf clubs, Valle Arriba and the Caracas Country Club, which are situated in the east of Caracas, in the districts of Chacao and Baruta.

The compulsory expropriation of the two golf greens was announced officially, as was the dispossession of a parcel of 15,538 square meters of land, in the west of Caracas (along the road going from Montalbán to La Vega) and another parcel of 466,000 square meters, in the north of Caracas, in the residential development of La Arbodela.

Many of the opposition newspapers denounced the measures, calling it the "arrival of communism" to Venezuela. In reality, the plots of land being expropriated are under-used and only of value to the ruling class. The working masses are pleased with the measures and the announcement that the City Council will build housing on the land. Nevertheless, the enormous housing crisis in Caracas will not be solved by the expropriation of some land and buildings in Caracas

The most telling point about this new development is that part of the ‘Chavista’ bureaucracy criticised the confrontation between the Mayor Baretto and the mayors of Baruta and Chacao. A wing of the Chavez government, which is openly opposed to the Mayor of Caracas, declared that the MVR (Movement of the Fifth Republic – the main governing party) will open an inquiry into the conduct of Baretto. They argue that Mayor Baretto’s measures will be used by the opposition in the run-up to the presidential elections in December.

Revolutionary measures

This shows there is a group in the Chavez government opposed to any revolutionary measures and that they will pursue their personal interests before the collective interests of the working masses. The Vice-President, Jose Vicente Rangel, declared in the name of the President Hugo Chavez, that the government did not endorse the decision to expropriate the land. This demonstrates that many of the people connected to the government are not prepared to take socialist measures. This can show who is with the revolution and the approaches taken by the different leaders in the government. Many deputies in parliament supported the expropriations but amongst the masses the feeling is that more is needed, including the expropriation of key strategic industries, like the telephone operator, CANTV, or the companies waiting on a decision by the national parliament before they can be taken in ‘co-gestions’ (a system of co-ownership between workers and the state).

President Chavez threatened CANTV with nationalisation in one of his TV appearances because the management of the company refuse to pay pensions to its retired workers.

To be able to construct socialism in Venezuela, the CWI calls for the nationalisation of the key industries of the economy under workers’ control and management, The working class and poor are the heart of the revolutionary process in Venezuela and they need to fight for their class demands.

In this process, it is necessary to create working class organisations, trade unions and parties to defend the rights of the working class and poor. We need to learn through our experience what measures are necessary to defend our interests, how to formulate our proper political demands and how to gain experience in the class struggle. Only in this way can we bring down capitalism and build genuine socialism.

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