Venezuela's controversial FAO award

Elías Jaua Milano, minister for foreign affairs of Venezuela, addresses the 38th session of the Food and Agriculture Organization Conference on June 17, 2013. According to FAO, Venezuela has reduced its malnourished population from over 13.5 percent to less than 5 percent. Photo by: Giuseppe Carotenuto / FAO

Food is a human right and should not be part of business, Venezuelan foreign minister Elias Jaua said at the FAO conference in Rome, where Venezuela was one of 37 countries commended for their progress on reducing hunger.

“When food is not considered business, as capitalism has imposed, and we give it its real nature of fundamental right, people begin to stop starving,” Jaua told Cuban news agency Prensa Latina on Monday on the sidelines of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s biannual meeting.

Venezuela, he explained, has benefited from the huge public food-distribution network established by late President Hugo Chavez, and which the new government under Nicolas Maduro has requested FAO to support.

Jaua’s claims were however disputed by netizens who were surprised that a U.N. agency had decided to commend a country that still suffers severe food shortages precisely due to that socialist system.

Twitter users like ‏‏@marchianisandov urged FAO representatives to visit the country and see the food shortages for themselves, while @zarrefi asked: “Under what terms [did the agency] Venezuela [such a] recognition? No agriculture, imported goods and food, shortages […] incredible.”

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles — who last April lost a hotly-contested general election to Maduro — said he is baffled at why a country where over three million people suffer food insecurity due to high inflation can be recognised by a U.N. agency.

FAO said last week in an official statement that Venezuela reduced its malnourished population from over 13.5 percent in 1990-1992 to less than 5 percent in 2010-2012, thus accomplishing one of the Millennium Development Goals, although the data was provided by the government.

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