[News] Venezuela's 'Social Revolution' Continues

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Tue Jun 28 11:59:15 EDT 2005

The Scotsman - 27 Jun 2005

Venezuela's 'Social Revolution' Continues

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has announced plans to deepen his social
“revolution” for the poor by expanding state-subsidised markets and speeding
up land reform.

Speaking during his weekly television and radio show yesterday, Chavez said
that by the end of this year state-run markets should be providing 15
million Venezuelans with food ­ or about 60% of the population of 25

The government says the markets currently serve about 10 million
Venezuelans, providing food at lower prices than standard supermarkets with
the help of government subsidies.

Chavez, who says he is leading the country away from capitalism and toward
socialism, also said there is a pressing need to eradicate corruption.

“Corruption is a poison,” he said. “Every one of us should be a warrior
fighting to the death against corruption, against inefficiency.”

Chavez spent about seven hours in the north-western city of Coro to promote
his program, inspecting cheese and bologna at a state-run market, and later
singing songs to the applause of supporters.

He visited cooks inside a soup kitchen for the poor ­ one of 1,000 such
programs that he said were being inaugurated yesterday, bringing the total
to more than 5,000.

Chavez said the number of “feeding houses” should reach more than 6,000 next
month, making sure the poorest Venezuelans receive enough to eat.

With Venezuela the world’s No. 5 oil exporter, Chavez has been able to take
advantage of windfall oil profits to spend billions of dollars on social
programs and public projects.

There are now more than 14,000 state-run Mercal markets in Venezuela, Chavez

He urged authorities to shut down any private markets that disregard
government price controls, and he said the state-run markets would continue
to grow because they offer Venezuelans better prices.

“Venezuela is going through positive times,” said Chavez, who pledged the
government would “accelerate” a land reform program that has begun turning
over ranch lands to the poor in cases where officials say ownership hasn’t
been proven or the land isn’t being adequately used.

Government opponents call the land reform an assault on private property,
while Chavez’s supporters defend it as a necessary move to increase food
production and help the poor.

Chavez also said the state-run oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, is for
the first time using dividends from its Houston-based subsidiary Citgo
Petroleum to fund social programs.

“Now we decide here how the earnings are spent,” he said, claiming that
untold millions were “stolen” by US executives in the past while no funds
were sent back to Venezuela.

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