Guayaquil, Ecuador, February 03, 2022 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan campesinos have secured land titles following years of struggle against unjustified dispossession, including the emblematic Los Tramojos case in Guárico state.
On Tuesday, the Campesino Struggle Platform announced the important “popular victory” in a joint effort with state institutions. According to the organization, the awaited land titles were handed to rural communities that had been irregularly evicted.
“Thanks to dialogue and inter-institutional coordination, today campesinos of La Cumaca in Carabobo state and Los Tramojos in Guárico state have recovered their lands after years of struggle,” tweeted the rural platform.
National Land Institute (INTI) President David Hernández confirmed that 320 land titles comprising 5,292 hectares were handed to campesino families across the country in recent days “to strengthen food production.”
Hernández likewise highlighted the long struggle to bring justice to La Cumaca and Los Tramojos communities after wrongful dispossession. “Following an arduous battle, campesinos have returned to their land,” he stated.
For its part, Agriculture Minister Wilmar Castro Soteldo emphasized the government's commitment to continue the agrarian reform which began with former President Hugo Chávez’s 2001 historic Land Law. The official added that 12 million unproductive hectares have been rescued by campesinos under the Bolivarian Revolution.
“What you [campesinos] are doing today is the driving force of our country’s transformation and development,” he said during the ceremony which took place in Caracas on February 1, marking the 205 birth anniversary of Venezuelan campesino hero Ezequiel Zamora.
Speaking to Venezuelanalysis, Los Tramojos spokesperson Carlos Bolívar said that the rescued estate was a “resounding victory for the campesino people” five years since the eviction and following three and half years of legal efforts to recover the land.
The veteran campesino leader detailed that from the 4800-hectare plot, 2,894 were assigned to the Ezequiel Zamora Collective to be divided among its 35 member families. Around 60 percent of the estate will be used for cattle rearing and 40 percent for agriculture.
"We have already received the title, but we still need to access the land. We are waiting, eager to get back in and produce," Bolívar said.
In recent years, Los Tramojos land stead, located in the Camaguán municipality, Guárico state, became a symbol of Venezuela’s ongoing campesino struggle for the right to work the land and against injustices in the countryside.
Before 2010, the large estate had no legal agrarian registry and was completely unproductive. With Chávez’s 2001 Land Law laying down conditions for campesinos to rescue idle plots, 40 rural families set up a 70-day vigil on Los Tramojos territory while following due process with authorities to legally occupy the plot.
"The 2010 land rescue was a priority for Chávez and then [Agriculture] Minister Juan Carlos Loyo. We went through all the legal steps until we obtained the right to work the land in favor of rural families," recalled Bolívar, a key figure in the struggle.
For seven consecutive years, the Ezequiel Zamora Collective successfully revived the idle plot, with mostly animal products that were supplied to Caracas. However, in 2017 the farmer families were violently evicted and the land was assigned to local businessman José Elías Chirimelli, who claimed to own Los Tramojos. Houses and crops were destroyed and over four thousand cattle head were stolen.
A protracted legal battle was set in motion against the unjustified displacement. Los Tramojos case was first brought to the government’s attention during the Admirable Campesino March in 2018. In a televised address, President Nicolás Maduro ordered the land returned to campesinos but little was done afterward.
After two years of fruitless bureaucratic challenges, in June 2019 the aggravated campesino families decided to occupy the lands, but the attempt was met by repression from security forces. This was soon followed by a month-long vigil at the INTI headquarters in Caracas, which secured a commitment to revise the case.
In December 2021, Guárico’s rural communities collected their first tangible victory. Venezuela’s Supreme Court (TSJ) ruled in favor of the campesino families in the case against private landowner Chirimelli. The decision was key to winning back the land titles.
"The investigation proved that the document in which the old owner of Los Tramojos supposedly passed the property to Chirimelli was false and had no legal value. The Supreme Court’s ruling reinstated the truth,” stressed Bolívar.
The Campesino Struggle Platform member added that the families returning to Los Tramojos hope to reach 80 percent productivity in one and a half years, with government support to acquire seeds and other inputs.
However, Bolívar expects that threats against the rural families will not cease and the struggle is far from over. “We are not going to let others break us again," he concluded.
Edited and with additional reporting by Ricardo Vaz from Caracas.