The «Admirable Campesino March» arrived in Caracas on August 1, 2018. Dozens of campesinos marched for almost 500 kilometers, making the ground rumble and shaking Chavismo out of its slumber. In a context of crisis and imperialist aggression, a landowner offensive placed Hugo Chávez’s legacy in danger.
The March met its initial goal, a meeting with President Maduro and the establishment of work tables to tackle the most important issues. But the momentum was quickly lost, the attacks continued, and the campesinos went back to their farmsteads.
Two years later, the problems are not just unsolved but have grown worse. First and foremost is the issue of targeted killings and the impunity surrounding them. There have been over 300 campesinos murdered since the landmark Land Law, 22 of them participants in the 2018 march.
Landowner attacks, with the complicity of state authorities, have also come in the form of a growing number of evictions and acts of sabotage, even in cases where campesino struggles got them the land deed. In this piece we detail some of the current battlefronts of the Venezuelan campesino movement:
Cacho e’ Venao
The Campesino Struggle Platform peacefully occupied the Land Institute (INTI) headquarters in mid-2019, and one of their achievements was securing the deed of the 300-hectare Cacho e’ Venao plot for the El Bucaro Campesino Council. However, less than a year on, the title has been revoked by the Agriculture Ministry, to be handed to a landowner in Portuguesa State. The land is currently producing plantains, yucca and other produce, and the campesinos are determined to fight for it.
Gavilán La Chaqueta
The Gavilán La Chaqueta farmstead in Barinas was one of the triggers for the Admirable March, after the eviction of over 100 families in February 2018. But it was also one of its first victories, with the title tot the 2700 hectares delivered two months later. The Mil Zamoras Una Patria Campesino Council produces staples such as plantains and rice, while also rearing buffalo. Nevertheless, the attacks from a powerful local landowner continue, with support from the rural guard, with the goal of harassing the campesinos and hurting their production.
Bolívar la Bolivariana
In the Sur del Lago region, 500 families struggled for over seven years. Though the Bolívar la Bolivariana farm was one of the most important cases defended by the 2018 Admirable March, INTI only assigned the 1400 hectares of land in mid-2019 after campesinos occupied its Caracas headquarters. Even so, campesino collectives denounce actions of sabotage sponsored by landowning interests.
The Agrícola Yaracuy company, with its several plots, is another case in point where the growing influence of the private sector in the Venezuelan countryside has been evident. After the property was put under the control of the Portuguesa governorship, the local government immediately handed it over to the Mazzoca corporation, which owns large swaths of land. As a result, 160 families who fought to rescue the idle lands, producing sugar cane and other products, are left without their livelihood. Likewise, 300 company workers were fired.
The Los Tramojos plot is one of the most important cases for campesino movements. The almost 5000 idle hectares of land were assigned by Chávez to 43 campesino families in 2010 after decades of struggle. However, in 2017, the campesino collective was evicted and has been resisting ever since. After an attempt to recover the lands was repressed in 2019, the Campesino Struggle Platform occupied the INTI headquarters in Caracas to demand government answers. The campesino movement has denounced that the case has not progressed because of landowners’ political connections.
The Bella Vista plot has been another priority for the Campesino Struggle Platform. The 47 families have the land title to the 400 rescued hectares, but that has not put a stop to three eviction attempts by security forces in recent months. Local leaders have decried repeated attacks, sponsored by local landowners, in which campesinos have been arrested, including several minors.
Class struggle is now being waged with more crudeness and violence in the Venezuelan countryside than anywhere else. The background is one of growing private sector protagonism and confrontation between to conflicting models. One one side agro-industry, which historically has relied heavily on the state, and on the other small scale producers, who continue to secure the vast majority of food production in the harshest of circumstances.
Campesino movements are currently the vanguard against this reactionary offensive that threatens some of the most important achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution. Venezuelan campesinos remain steadfast, willing to struggle for food security and sovereignty, fighting so that the land belongs to those who work it. The march goes on.
Research and texts: Ricardo Vaz. Illustrations: Valentina Aguirre, César Mosquera, Fiesky Rivas, Miguel Guerra, Edio Gutierrez y Forastero LPA. Artwork: Kael Abello. Proofreading: América Rodríguez.