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A Food Fight for Hugo Chavez April 7, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics.
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El Presidente’s efforts to transform his country into a Cuban-style socialist state are sputtering. With its vast oil wealth, Venezuela shouldn’t suffer from shortages, yet inefficient farms, government takeovers of supermarkets, and a 50% currency devaluation in January have thrown the food supply into disarray. Chávez’s approval rating among Venezuelans has dropped to about 45% from 70% three years ago.

Supplying low-cost food to the poor has been a centerpiece of Chávez’s presidency. He has expropriated food processors, stores, and more than 6 million acres of farms and ranches, convinced that the government can feed Venezuela better than the private sector does. Under state ownership, though, production has suffered. From 1999 to 2008, per capita, sugar cane was off by 8%, fruit declined by 25%, and beef production dropped by 38%, according to Carlos Machado, an expert in agriculture at the Institute of Higher Administrative Studies, a business school in Caracas. “The cooperatives have failed and our cattle ranching has been decimated,” Machado says.

In a poll by researcher DATOS 86% don’t think Cuba is an appropriate model for Venezuela. Chávez “is moving in the opposite direction from what people say they want for their country,” says DATOS director Joseph Saade. “People look at everything the government has taken over and they’re seeing that the companies have become dysfunctional.”

via A Food Fight for Hugo Chavez – BusinessWeek.

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