Portuguese-born businessman on hunger strike demanding Venezuelan government not seize land

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A Portuguese-born businessman has been on a hunger strike for three days demanding the Venezuelan government not seize land where he runs a metalworking business.

The 59-year-old man, Francisco Alves, has been consuming only liquids since Saturday, Portuguese Consul General Antonio Chrystello Tavares said Tuesday.

Alves — who emigrated to Venezuela 26 years ago and holds dual Venezuelan and Portuguese citizenship — said he presented ownership documents to government land agency officials but they rejected them, saying they planned to take over the property.

"If it's necessary, I'm willing to give my life for my property," Alves told reporters on Monday. He chained himself to a work shed on his 2.7-hectare (6.7-acre) property in Carabobo state and appealed to President Hugo Chavez to intervene.

Tavares said the businessman expects to meet with Venezuela's agriculture minister on Wednesday to press his case.

The hunger strike began less than a week after another Venezuelan, Franklin Brito, died in a hospital after repeated hunger strikes in a land dispute with the government.

Such conflicts have played out across Venezuela as Chavez's socialist-oriented government has backed seizures of farmland that it deems unproductive and has awarded others with plots to cultivate.

There no immediate reaction from government officials to Alves' hunger strike.