In a desperate effort to cope with worsening food shortages, the government of Venezuela has approved a new law that allows the government to force citizens into agricultural labor.
According to Vice News, the law, approved by President Nicholas Maduro’s government last week, empowers the government to conscript both public and private-sector workers to join agricultural work teams for 60-day periods. The conscription can be renewed repeatedly, meaning the government could potentially force workers to permanently become agricultural workers with no ability to return to their old jobs.
Officially, the government will still pay these workers their old work salaries, creating a system comparable to medieval serfdom. But with Venezuela in the grip of hyperinflation, it’s not clear what these workers will be able to buy with their salaries.
The law was passed as an executive decree, allowing it to bypass Venezuela’s National Assembly, which is controlled by opposition parties opposed to Maduro. (RELATED: Venezuela’s Big Mess Could End In One Of Five Ways)
The law is the latest sign of desperation in Venezuela, which has experienced almost complete economic disintegration over the past year. The country’s woes can be claimed on a combination of falling oil prices as well as the systemic failure of socialist economic policies created by Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez. Besides food, the country is also experiencing shortages in toilet paper, paper money, and even gasoline, despite having the largest proven oil reserves on planet Earth.
Maduro’s government claims the country is the victim of right-wing business interests that are deliberately sabotaging the country’s economy. (RELATED: In Venezuela, Dumpsters Are The New Grocery Stores)
Unsurprisingly, the new decree is being denounced by human rights groups, with Amnesty International deploring the law for driving people into “forced labor.”
“Trying to tackle Venezuela’s severe food shortages by forcing people to work the fields is like trying to fix a broken leg with a band aid,” Erika Guevara Rosas, the group’s Americas director, said in a statement.
Venezuela is hardly the first socialist country to impress citizens into agricultural labor. The Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia drove the country’s urban population into rural areas in an effort to create a new, communist agrarian society, and ended up killing over a million people. Similarly, Fidel Castro’s Cuba forced citizens to work on sugar plantations in order to cultivate additional sugar for export.
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