Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Happy Times on the Plantation

Any doofus who knows anything about the history of South and Central America knows that most of the countries there have suffered for centuries the horrors of the latifundia /hacienda system whereby tiny, extremely violent elites held nearly all the arable lands. Slavery, murder, torture and terror were used to crush resistance and enslave workers in these plantations. In the twentieth century the US was often the generous provider of arms, funds, and training for the elites that ruled these countries.

But in Venezuela the problem according to six-figure Steve Inskeep is that "President Hugo Chavez uses revolutionary rhetoric that has incited poor squatters to invade large farms. Chavez says rich land owners care little about the poor." And the solution is..."one of those landowners..." Honestly, "one of those landowners"!

Unlike the misfired New Yorker cover, this story is not parody. It's dead serious. Yep, from the centuries of hacienda hell (which is not ancient history), NPR worked hard to find the one exception, Alberto Vollmer, a rich hacienda owner who seems to have both power, wealth and morality. The guy seems like an interesting man, and if one can believe Forero's report - and that's always a big if with Forero - the policies of the democratically elected Venezuelan government (including Hugo Chavez) have created an opportunity where the extremely wealthy can use their holdings to better the lives of others instead of destroy them.

But God forbid that any credit go to the government of Venezuela. No the only hope is from the plantation master, who in spite of everything has a heart of gold.

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