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Before the land reform started in 2002, an estimated 5 percent of the population owned 80 percent of the country’s private land. The government says it has now taken over about 3.4 million acres and resettled more than 15,000 families.
He points to inconsistencies in the government’s approach, like having one ministry charged with redistributing land to reduce food imports while another is tasked with importing large amounts of food.
“The double talk from the highest levels is absurd,” Mr. Machado said. “By enhancing the state’s power, the reforms we’re witnessing now are a mechanism to perpetuate poverty in the countryside.”
But Venezuela, unlike many of its neighbors, has long imported most of its food, and uses less than 30 percent of its arable land to its full potential, according to the United Nations.
A good part of the reason is the havoc that its oil wealth plays on the economy, with a strong currency during times of high oil prices making it cheaper to import food than to produce it at home. Meanwhile, vast cattle ranches take up large areas of arable land.