Campesinos March Across Venezuela Demanding Gov’t Rectify Agrarian Policy

The peasant farmers will bring a range of complaints and proposals to President Maduro’s attention.

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The Admirable Campesino March in a pit stop in Lara State
The Admirable Campesino March in a pit stop in Lara State. (Gerardo Rojas)
By Cira Pascual Marquina
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Warren, Vermont, July 25, 2018 (venezuelanalysis.com) – For almost two weeks, a large contingent of Venezuelan campesinos has been marching across the country in what they call the “Admirable Campesino March” to raise awareness about the many problems faced by small farmers, including evictions, harassment and general neglect at the hands of government institutions.

The marchers plan to arrive to Caracas and deliver a collective document, which presents both their complaints and proposals, to President Nicolas Maduro.

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The 435 Km route of the Admirable Campesino March
The 435 Km route of the Admirable Campesino March. (@LuisanaC16)

The campesino march began on July 12 in the city of Guanare, Portuguesa State, and has been making its way gradually to the nation’s capital. The action is known as the “Admirable March” in memory of Simon Bolivar’s Admirable Campaign that swept across the country, following a similar trajectory, in 1813.

Last week the marchers’ caravan, which includes members of the Campesino Struggle Platform, the Nicomedes Abreu Classist Campesino Current and the Revolutionary Bolivar and Zamora Current, made a pit stop in Carabobo to deal with logistical problems, injuries and wash clothes, before pressing forward.

They are now 120 kilometers from Caracas in Maracay, where they met today with workers of Cacique Maracay, a factory expropriated from Kimberly‐Clark in 2016.

Usmary Enrique, spokesperson of the Campesino Struggle Platform, told AlbaTV that the marchers’ manifesto, “brings together problems of the [campesino] sector, but we also have included solutions that, we believe, should be carried out to get the country on its feet.”

“Enough of bad practices and bad agrarian policy!” Enrique exclaimed. “During the last three years the crisis has become critical because of the lack of food, and it’s not possible... that we have to import food when we could produce what is today being imported.”

In a symbolic gesture, the Admirable Campesino March began on July 12, precisely two months after the murder of two rural leaders from Barinas State, Jesús León and Guillermo Toledo, whose assassins have not been brought to justice.

In addition to the more than 300 campesino deaths and disappearances in the last 15 years, Venezuela’s small peasants have frequently faced harassment by police and other state security organs acting in the service of local landlords.

Furthermore, small producers and communes find it almost impossible to obtain agricultural supplies and seeds from the state‐run company Agropatria, although the same products find their way into the private sector and into the hands of illegal traffickers.

In early April, Maduro recognized the problems facing campesinos in a public speech. From Miraflores, the president called on the National Constituent Assembly to investigate the evictions and gave away land titles, while proposing a future meeting of the “Campesino High Command.” At that time, Maduro said he would completely prohibit small farmer evictions in the future.

Despite the president’s pledge of support, the plight of Venezuela’s small farmers continues. On July 20, national police violently evicted campesinos from the legally occupied of lands in El Chavero, Barinas State. Formerly vacant, the land is now sewn with corn and cassava.

For its part, the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current (CRBZ) has repeatedly denounced what it considers widespread state violence exercised against campesino occupations and the institutional neglect in addressing the acquired rights of small farmer families.

The Admirable March was initially focused only on farmers’ issues, but along the way the campesinos captured the imagination of a broad swath of the population. In this way, the marchers have been encouraged to broaden the scope of their programmatic demands.

According to Arbonio Ortega in declarations to Venezuelanalysis, “The march has acquired a new character, which is for all Venezuelans, the whole people.”

“Let the march become something more comprehensive, involving all sectors,” he added.