Venezuela: Slave labour or just growing more food?
Venezuelans taking part in a voluntary program to boost a slowly developing agricultural sector, described by the US media as "slavery".The United States media's latest offensive against Venezuela's socialist President Nicolas Maduro targets a new sustainability program that transplants urban workers to farmland. Some quarters of the mainstream media have equated it with slave labour.Passed on July 22, the decree sets up a voluntary program for public and private workers to cultivate organic food for 60 days on their normal salary before returning to their jobs. Venezuela is suffering from a food shortage, largely caused by businesses hoarding food while stashing away government money reserved for imports. The Venezuelan economy largely relies on oil, the price of which has dropped dramatically, but Maduro has passed several measures to develop agricultural production.Head of the Bolivarian Socialist Workers' Centre Carlos Lopez, said the new program was planned alongside community organisers. “The workers that want to move to reactive [agricultural] businesses can move and will have their rights guaranteed,” Lopez told Union Radio.Soundbites circulating in the US media are exclusively from Amnesty International, whose closest office is based in Mexico City. Amnesty's Americas division released a statement calling the program “unlawful” and saying it "effectively amounts to forced labour”. It added that Venezuela should seek humanitarian aid for a “workable long term plan” rather than develop its own agricultural sector. Read more >>