Mérida, August 8, 2020 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered a detailed probe into the assassination of 370 campesinos by landowners over the last 20 years.
Maduro tasked Interior Minister Néstor Reverol and Agriculture Minister Wilmar Castro Soteldo with providing information on the issue as soon as possible.
"I need a report on the situation of these 370 martyrs who have been assassinated by landowners, by hitmen. We need justice to be done”, the head of state said during a video conference with the campesino movements to relaunch the Agro Venezuela Mission on Wednesday
He specifically asked that the investigation be undertaken alongside campesino movements and Braulio Alvarez, a well-known farmer and member of the National Constituent Assembly, who has been prominent in defense of campesino rights.
Maduro also instructed the Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez and the head of the Bolivarian Armed Forces’ Strategic Operational Command, Remigio Ceballos, to design new strategies for the protection of peasants against landowner attacks.
The instructions came days after the second anniversary of the so-called Admirable Campesino March, which saw rural leaders lead a march to Caracas to deliver a collective document, with complaints and proposals, to the Venezuelan president.
Although Maduro pledged at the time to address the movement’s grievances, campesino leaders say their demands remain unanswered.
One of the main issues is violence perpetrated by landowners who have opposed the Venezuelan government’s land redistribution policy going back to the landmark 2001 Land Law introduced by former President Hugo Chavez.
In 2017, a committee of victims’ relatives asked the National Constituent Assembly to declare campesino killings crimes against humanity. They likewise demanded justice be done for the more than 300 leaders killed in their struggle for land, especially in the states of Zulia, Barinas, Apure and Portuguesa.
Campesino leaders have also denounced evictions pushed forward by the National Land Institute. In a recent case, the institute revoked the property deed of the 300-hectare Cacho e’ Venao plot that had been turned over to 45 families in Portuguesa State, only to return it to the previous landowner, even though the campesinos are currently producing food.
Rural movements hope the relaunch of the Agro Venezuela Mission will provide more support to small and midsize producers. President Hugo Chavez founded the program in 2011 to increase food production by providing low-interest loans, machinery, and technical assistance to farmers in the country.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Mérida.