By Nino Pagliccia
February 13, 2021 "Information
Clearing House" - In our daily
political struggle we demand our independence from
the invader, from the occupier, from imperialism.
All of those demands are in essence struggles to
assert our sovereignty as a nation and as a people.
A nation is truly sovereign when its people are
protagonists in shaping their own destiny, when they
are the real rulers that govern their country, and
the working class controls the means of production
and the production itself.
We believe that full uncompromising sovereignty
is the ultimate goal of a socialist society. That is
the kind of society that Venezuela is trying to
achieve with the Bolivarian Revolution; one where
sovereignty is not only a statement on paper but
translates into security in all aspects of life of
its citizens. Food most essentially.
The international peasants’ movement called
La Via Campesina
developed the concept of food sovereignty as an
alternative to neoliberal policies during the World
Food Summit in 1996. Because it has been precisely
the prevailing neoliberal economic system,
represented by the World Bank and the IMF with their
structural adjustment policies, that threatens food
sovereignty and food security.
Neoliberal policies cause most harm to food
security by allowing corporate-driven agricultural
land grab, control over type of food production and
distribution, dependency on patented genetically
modified seeds, high speculative food prices and low
farmers wages, and forced imports as opposed to
local production of food.
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For these reasons we must stand in solidarity
with the on-going struggle of Indian farmers who are
fighting precisely neoliberal policies from their
own government that threaten their livelihood and
the nation’s food sovereignty.
It was not until 2014 that the United Nations
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) finally came
recognise the importance of food sovereignty.
Eventually FAO became bolder and indirectly
blamed neoliberal policies for interfering with
the food system.
Many years earlier, when Hugo Chavez became
president in 1999, Venezuela recognised the
importance of food sovereignty and food security and
so it is now imbedded in the 1999 constitution of
the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
The first challenge of the Bolivarian Revolution
was to deal with land access and ownership. By 1997
it was estimated that 5 percent of landowners
controlled 75 percent of the land and 75 percent of
them cultivated only 6 percent of the land. Much of
the land concentrated in the hands of large
landholders was idle or underused.
In 2001 Chavez issued a series of decrees shaping
the revolutionary Land Law with its leading project
Misión Zamora that led to assigning to landless
farmers land belonging to large estates, or
latifundios, that were not producing at least
80% of their potential.
By the end of 2003, 60,000 families had received
temporary title to a total of 55,000 square
kilometres of land by the Chavez government. The
land reform may have been what triggered the failed
coup attempt against him in 2002.
One of the largest land expropriations, which by
the way are perfectly legal in international law,
took place in 2011 when 13,000 hectares of farmland
(close to 10,000 football fields) called “El
Charcote”, of questionable property of a British
business group, was
Venezuelan Food Security and Sovereign Law. This
legislation allows the government to legally
expropriate land in “exceptional circumstances”
relating to issues of national food security and the
We must wonder how this event may have influenced
the decision of the British courts when they decided
not to return $1 billion worth of Venezuelan gold
held in the Bank of England.
In 2009 a report about the
Venezuelan effort to build a new food and
agriculture system with Chavez’s vision of
Socialism of the Twenty-First Century showed
outstanding results with significant increased
production of basic crops. In some cases Venezuela
reached levels of self sufficiency like in its two
most important grains, corn and rice.
However, the illegal US coercive economic and
measures (sanctions) that started in 2015 have
caused the reported death of about 40,000
Venezuelans in 2017-2018 and possibly up to more
Forced to confront food shortages caused by the
“sanctions”, in 2016 the Maduro government undertook
one of the most successful programs to guarantee
equitable access to food so no one would be left
behind: the Comité Locales de Abastecimiento y
Producción (CLAP – Local Committees for Supply
and Production of food). The program distributes
house-to-house boxes of food, containing some of the
main staples of the Venezuelan diet: cornflour,
pasta, rice, black beans, cooking oil and more at
From 2017 to 2020 the CLAP program has
distributed almost 500 million food boxes equivalent
to 6.5 million metric tons of food. Currently it
benefits a reported six million Venezuelan families
through monthly deliveries of food boxes.
In the most cruel action bordering callous
criminality the US Treasury Department has
imposed sanctions affecting the CLAP food
It is highly commendable how many Venezuelans,
mostly farmers, have organised themselves and
immediately responded to food shortages in a large
scale by increasing the production of staple food
items. They have mobilized to become protagonists of
their own destiny.
Finally, it is important to recognise that the
Bolivarian Revolution is not only dealing with the
immediate urgent need to put food on the table of
Venezuelan families in order to overcome a real
siege from the US empire, but also with the more
meaningful long term political goal to develop all
the necessary programs and infrastructure to turn
Venezuela in a truly food independent and sovereign
Biological labs are being created for pest
control in agriculture in order to increase organic
production of food. At the same time labs are
created to produce microorganisms for natural
fertilisers to reduce the imports of expensive
There is also a strong push to rescue endogenous
foods to eliminate the dependency from the
genetically modified varieties exported by large
corporations and not adapted to the local
environment. This is leading to the production of
native seeds that are then used by farmers with
their old agricultural traditions.
The full systematic and comprehensive plan – as a
strategic response to the impact of the US
unilateral coercive economic and financial measures
– is laid out in the program
Gran Misión Agro-Venezuela that includes land
reform, agricultural practice, biological use of
inputs, development of native seeds, popular
production organisations, financing, and
distribution to consumers.
Ultimately, the government of Venezuela together
with the active participation of the majority of the
population and farmers in their respective
communities – known as Communes – have to be praised
for undertaking the process of building socialism
and the urgent response to tackle the most pressing
Their example says that the use of food as a
weapon must be eradicated.