Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Those who do not learn from the past....

Chavez Land Seizures Slammed
Ideology and corporate concerns do not enter the conversation of the campesinos sitting on overturned buckets shucking fresh corn to be ground in a hand-cranked mill and made into corn pancakes called "cachapas."
    For these families, ignored for generations by previous governments and pushed to the edge of survival, Mr. Chavez's revolutionary plans appear as their ticket to a new life. They reject the idea that they are squatters or that they have invaded someone else's land.
    "We are Venezuelans; we have the right to the soil. This is our earth, so we are not invaders," said Lisa Gramos, 55, before cooking the pancakes on a hot griddle in the one-room hut that serves as kitchen and bedroom for four adults and a number of small children.
    Much of the rancor comes from Venezuela's history of the wealthy few owning most of the land, and the failure of successive governments to bring the poor into national development.
    It is a situation that Mr. Branger, speaking over a long dinner in Caracas, recognizes.
    "We deserved it. We became a very complacent society, and we forgot our social responsibility, and we forgot the communities. We were not giving back to the communities. We deserved a bit of what is going on -- but unfortunately, we got a lot," he said.

Of course the state seizure of land is going to end badly. Outside corporations will stop investing, like Wal-Mart bailed on Russia after Yukos was seized. Other multinationals and folks who think they might be next will head for the exits. Those who stay will demand a premium for the extra risk to their investment. But the other point to be made is in a democracy, Oligarchy cannot be sustained. Sooner or later, if people feel they are getting a raw deal they will use the ballot box to strike back—no matter how many "Harry and Louise" spots you run. But thinking about that would require our beloved Robber Barons to think beyond the next quarter.

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