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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Socialism and communism: the same thing - Veneconomy

Socialism and communism: the same thing
25/08/2010 www.veneconomy.com

The Property Rights Alliance’s latest International Property Rights Index ranks Venezuela 123rd out of 125 nations, below Zimbabwe and Cuba and above only Ivory Coast and Bangladesh.
This index reflects what is obvious for the vast majority of Venezuelans: that over the past eleven long years, their property rights have been ignored.

This sad story started with the “rescue” of agricultural land on the pretext of fighting against the latifundios or large estates. But that did not prevent the government from snatching properties of all types and sizes, many of them modest and clearly productive. And now, the latest amendment to the Lands Act introduces so many justifications for expropriating a plot of land that, in practice, it eradicates private ownership of agricultural land.

Then came the expropriation of a large number of companies with the excuse that they were supposedly “strategic.” Using this rationale, the entire oil and electricity sectors, a large part of the telecommunications sector, and companies in basic sectors and companies engaged in food distribution and a whole series of associated activities were nationalized.

Meanwhile, in the cities, the authorities were encouraging squatters to invade and take over plots of land and buildings that were in strategic locations or were allegedly abandoned or being remodeled.
At that time, experts warned that the attack on property was not only aimed at large landowners or corporations and that, sooner rather than later, the regime would go after small landowners and owners of small businesses, as this was an attack on the foundations of the Venezuelan economy and against people’s freedom to engage in the economic activity of their choice, progress, and have the means to meet their needs without depending directly on the government and its handouts.

This has become more than clear in recent months. At the end of 2009, President Chávez ordered the expropriation of buildings in downtown Caracas housing dozens of small businesses, with the result that hundreds of ordinary workers were left without a job. Another group whose rights have been restricted is that of the concessionaires in municipal markets that have come under the aegis of a mayor sympathetic to the government. Today, these small merchants cannot dispose of the businesses they have built up, they are forbidden to transfer and even bequeath their concessions, and they now have to comply with conditions that make their continuing in business unviable, and meanwhile they are being harassed and threatened.

Just this week, a small shoe store was suddenly evicted in downtown Caracas. The excuse was the expropriation of Edificio Gradillas, a building that belongs to the Episcopate. The shoe store’s elderly owners, who had been in business for more than 40 years, were left out on the street along with their three employees and 14,000 pairs of shoes.
 
Then there is the case of Friosa, the largest food distribution company in Bolívar state that was intervened in May this year for 90 days. During that time, sales fell by 70% and working conditions were adversely affected. The workers have publicly shown how the company’s facilities and vehicles have been allowed to deteriorate and even how food that was going bad was being used to provide meals at the basic companies, but all their protests have been to no avail. The intervention has been extended for another 90 days and now anyone who protests runs the risk of losing his job.
 
As Fidel said: socialism and communism are the same thing.

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