Venezuelan Campesinos Mobilize as Rural Violence Continues

Hundreds rallied for their rights in western Venezuela amid another campesino assassination.

By Ricardo Vaz
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Over 1000 campesinos demonstrated in the border state of Tachira, demanding more government support for food production. (CRBZ)
Over 1000 campesinos demonstrated in the border state of Tachira, demanding more government support for food production. (CRBZ)

Pays de Gex, France, November 22, 2018 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Over a thousand campesinos staged a rally in the border state of Tachira on Tuesday, November 20, demanding government support for food production.

The mobilization in the state capital of San Cristobal, led by the Revolutionary Bolivar and Zamora Current (CRBZ), included campesino organizations and communes from Tachira State, as well as from neighboring Apure, Barinas and Merida states.

Orlando Zambrano, one of the CRBZ spokespeople and a member of the National Constituent Assembly, argued that an urgent plan for food production is required.

“It is essential to build a great National Productive Alliance that will link the government and all forms of organizations of campesinos who know how to produce,” he stated.

The demonstration ended at the local offices of the National Land Institute (INTI), with a list of proposals and demands from the campesinos being delivered to state officials.

Aura Gomez, one of the movement’s spokespeople, publicly read this document before authorities.

“The constitution guarantees the incorporation of campesinos in the productive development of the country. We are here to demand that the appropriate conditions in the countryside be created for this guarantee to be fulfilled,” she declared.

Local officials from INTI and from the office of Freddy Bernal, appointed by the national government as “protector” of opposition-controlled Táchira State (1), reportedly received the demands and professed their intention to work together with the campesino organizations. A commission of campesino spokespeople, alongside leaders from the CRBZ, later held a meeting in the local offices of the Ministry for Land and Agriculture to discuss the demands further.

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A list of proposals and demands was delivered to state officials. (CRBZ)
A list of proposals and demands was delivered to state officials. (CRBZ)

Tuesday’s demonstration came on the heels of fresh episodes of violence against campesinos in the Venezuelan countryside.

On Monday afternoon, November 19, Tomas Ribas “Tomasito,” a campesino organizer from the Izquierda Unida grouping in Apure State, was reportedly shot dead after a violent raid on the disputed Hato Garza plot in Barinas State.

Witnesses have claimed that members of the National Guard were involved in the raid. At the time of writing this has yet to be confirmed, and no official investigation has yet been announced. The Hato Garza plot, in the municipality of Barinas, is reportedly comprised of 14,000 hectares of idle land that campesinos have sought to occupy and produce on, in line with Venezuela’s land reform statutes .

A few days earlier, on Saturday November 17, campesinos from the Comandante Adrian Moncada Commune in Lara State denounced that one of their leaders, Josué Medina, had been seized by FAES, the special forces division of the Bolivarian National Police.

Witnesses at the scene reported that the security agents arrived alongside the former owner of a plot that members of the commune took over ten years ago and made productive. Medina was reportedly released after spending a few hours in custody.

Putting an end to state and paramilitary violence in the countryside has been one of the central demands of campesino organizations in recent months. The landmark Land Law of 2001 grants campesinos a legal base to take over and produce on idle land, but campesino organizations have often complained of a lack of response, or even hostility, from state institutions and security forces when it comes to land disputes.

Targeted killings of Venezuelan campesinos have been on the rise over past months. In one of the latest cases, Luis Fajardo and Javier Aldana, campesino leaders from the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) were gunned down in connection to a land dispute in Sur del Lago, Merida State.

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