Caracas, Venezuela, August 29, 2006 —Venezuela’s leading campesino (peasant) movement is gearing up their campaign to support President Hugo Chavez in his reelection bid for this December’s elections. The announcement was made during a press conference held in Caracas by the Ezequiel Zamora National Campesino Front (FNCEZ).
Alí Ramos, representative of the FNCEZ leadership council announced that over the next few weeks they will be incorporating in to the president’s electoral campaign (the Miranda National Electoral Campaign), and will specifically be focusing on a census and registration campaign for Venezuelan campesino communities.
“There are a lot of campesinos that are not registered to vote with the National Electoral Council,” said Ramos.
Ramos also declared that they will be announcing a general plan shortly, which will accompany the National electoral plan.
“The FNCEZ is going to work in an autonomous form as a social organization, in order to give the clear support of the campesino movement to the leadership of President Chavez and the Revolutionary Process,” said Ramos
FNCEZ estimates that the Venezuelan campesino “masses” number about 7 million strong, of which the voting population is between 2.5 and 3 million individuals. They also stated that approximately 30,000 campesino families are currently struggling for land, or have already received it, along with other associations of small producers and coffee farmers.
Ramos announced that “the people are with President Chavez,” although, he stated, that there is discontent over certain situations such as the slowness of the land-reform and of access to credit, and the assassination of campesino leaders at the hands of hired gun-men.
Over 150 campesino leaders have been assassinated since the passage of the land reform law in 2001. Almost no one has been held responsible for these acts although they are believed to have been carried out by large landowners fearing the loss of their land as a result of the land reform.
“The President has all of the will to [carry out the land reform], but impunity is one of the threats to this process, along with corruption,” said Ramos.
Ramos explained that the current administration is attempting to address the problems and the absence of “communicative channels between the ministries and the campesino masses” with the creation of the agrarian social programs, Mision Zamora and Mision Campo Adentro. Both missions are relatively new Venezuelan programs, which focus on support and technical assistance to campesinos and producers in the countryside.
Nevertheless, according to Ramos, the land reform has been slow and should be accelerated. “This government from the agrarian point of view, is very slow,” said Ramos. “It takes a long time, it is bureaucratic, it is inefficient.” He stated that in some cases, it can take 4 years to receive land titles. He blamed this on a number of factors, including assassination threats against those carrying out the reform. But in order to understand the situation, he stated that the FNCEZ tries to look at the issue “comprehensively.”
The FNCEZ clarified that in their opinion, the land reform has only occurred with lands “rescued from the state.”
“Here, there have not been expropriations. Here, there have not been confiscations. The only lands that have been confiscated, are the lands of the narco-traffickers,” said Ramos. “They have been handing over the land titles, but with state land, or to peasants who have been on that land for many years.”
The FNCEZ also highlighted the importance of food sovereignty, especially considering the fact that “almost 75% of the products [they] consume are imported.”
“We need food sovereignty… agrarian revolution, national liberation, to free our food dependency,” said Ramos.
Ramos also announced that the FNCEZ supports the struggle of indigenous communities, especially those fighting against coal mining in the state of Zulia. They are currently in the process of building further ties with indigenous communities in order to “combine forces.”
“We want unity in order to be able to build together as a people, achieve our goals, our rights- so we are proposing unity. Unity in order to advance,” said Ramos
Ultimately, Ramos declared that the major political tool they have is the “permanent mobilization.”
“That is our policy- it’s the street, it’s the organization, it’s the pressure. For all of the people, and not just the poor regions of Caracas and the largest cities.”
The six-year-old FNCEZ is currently in a process of internal debate regarding the future of the Venezuelan agrarian reform, and “socialism of the 21st century.” They have proposed a large demonstration at the end of the year, “in order to present to the country [their] vision of the socialist agrarian revolution.”