Food and Fear in Venezuela

by Keli Garcia

Institution: University of Florida
Department: Latin American Studies
Year: 2010
Keywords: Latin American Studies
Record ID: 1867370
Full text PDF: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0025159


'I can not find beans, rice, coffee, or milk,' said Mirna de Campos, a 56 year-old Venezuelan (Romero 2008). These are the typical concerns of average Venezuelans ever since the country started facing food shortages in 2003 (Pearson 2007). Observers are divided on the cause of these shortages and the answer may depend on who is responding. Like everything else in Venezuela these days, this is a topic divided by political loyalties in which the government has an official response and those in the opposition attribute shortages to completely different reasons. Government officials emphasize increased consumption due to a greater purchasing power of the poorest classes and they also blame the shortages on food hoarding on the part of producers and shop owners. Those in the opposition emphasize the ill effect of government policies and an overall decline in agricultural production. The question of food sovereignty is a very complicated one and one that should not be taken lightly. Instead of trying to tackle the entire question, this study proposes to understand the problems with agricultural production in Venezuela, especially in the areas of meat and milk production. The issue of production is important, because as Venezuela's population grows, internal production will prove to be the key to the country's food sovereignty. The objective of this research is to identify the problems with production, which I hold to be caused by social and political insecurity. My fieldwork took place in Maracaibo, Venezuela. Maracaibo is the second largest city in Venezuela and it is the capital of the state of Zulia, which located on the border with Colombia. Through participant observation and interviews I gathered information on the overall situation in Venezuela. I conducted a newspaper survey focusing on issues of insecurity in the nation, political decisions affecting food production, and on the overall atmosphere created by politicians and the media. I also conducted in depth interviews with cattle ranchers in the state of Zulia. It is my conclusion that political and social insecurity have been extremely detrimental to the production of food in Venezuela. The major manifestations of these issues come in the forms of kidnapping and land expropriation, which have detracted from investments of money and time from issues of production. In extreme cases, ranchers have even abandoned food production all together for fear of losing their lives or wasting their investments.