I decided I would go to El Charcote, near San Carlos, as I had heard that there was a land dispute between a wealthy English Company and some campesino families who had occupied the land. I thought that perhaps our solidarity group could do something to support the campesinos in their struggle to stay on the land. El Charcote ranch is a 12,950 hectare piece of land which Agroflora, a subsidiary of the Vestey Group, claims to own. The Vestey Group is vastly wealthy (Lord Vestey is the 56th richest person in the UK) and owns 13 farms in Venezuela alone, as well as land across the whole of South America.
They are known to have destroyed huge areas of rain-forest in Brazil in order to rear cattle which supply the meat for McDonalds.
Following the Land Act, passed in December 2001, 400 families moved onto the El Charcote ranch and began to farm it. The Land Act stated that the government can expropriate farmlands if they are declared idle or if there is no evidence of rightful ownership. This would only apply to large areas of land (more than 5000 hectares) not under production. The landowners will then have a period in which they have to begin production and, if they fail to do this, the law says that the land can be bought by the government at current market prices.
Bell, K. (in press). A visit to Lord Vestey’s ranch in Venezuela