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Venezuelan government takes over farms

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP)--Venezuelan officials supported by troops and police took control of 31 farms totaling more than 48,000 acres (19,000 hectares) on Nov. 23, accusing owners of not holding proper titles or not putting the land to adequate use.

Agriculture Minister Elias Jaua announced the government's interventions at farms across the country and insisted it was acting legally.

The affected land included a ranch belonging to former presidential candidate Manuel Rosales, a prominent opponent of President Hugo Chavez who earlier this year fled to Peru and was granted asylum.

Jaua denied the actions were politically motivated and said no one "can shield himself in his position as a political leader'' to break the law.

The business group Fedecamaras denounced what it called illegal farm seizures in central Guarico state, saying the farms have been producing large quantities of cattle and corn.

Antonio Pestana, of the country's largest farmers association, said the area was among the few that managed to overcome dry conditions this year to produce a large corn crop.



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