Latin America farmers' organizations propose alternative rural model

2005-10-14 00:00:00

After three days of intense work, on Tuesday October 11, at the close of the 4th Congress of the Latin American Coordination of Rural Organizations (CLOC), the 178 delegates, of 88 rural and indigenous organizations from 25 countries, expressed support for the people affected by natural disaster in the host country, Guatemala, this "Maya territory, cradle of maize, of diverse knowledge, cultures, languages and identities".

"Our hearts and solidarity are with our Guatemalan sisters and brothers who have suffered the effects of hurricane Stan, that has also affected El Salvador and Mexico, and that is a result of the depredation caused by the capitalist model, whose greed for profit engenders vulnerabilities associated with poverty and breaks down the harmonious balance between human beings and nature", states the Declaration adopted in the final plenary session.

In this document, the CLOC reaffirms its outright opposition to the policies of neoliberal Capitalism, imposed by the IMF and the WTO, which give preference to the interests of transnational corporations, over and above the environment and human rights; and it declares its on-going fight against these policies. This is also a fight in defense of humanity and life, and to develop a new alternative project, from a peasant-farmers' perspective, for a just and egalitarian future, exempt of all forms of discrimination, it states.

The Congress, that took place from October 9 to 11, preceded by the continental Assemblies of rural women and young peasant-farmers, included a space for assessment, reflection, analysis and self-criticism of the CLOC's first decade of struggle and mobilization. The delegates also debated the coordinating body's strategic targets and defined an action agenda.

In their Declaration, they condemn the transnational agro-exporting model that is transforming the countryside, monopolizing land, natural resources, biodiversity and knowledge. This model extends monocultures, further empowers the big estates and large-scale commercial production, endangers the subsistence of small producers, generates exodus of the peasantry from the countryside and increases impoverishment of the farming population. As forms of resistance to this model, the action strategies of rural organizations include such key aspects as the defense of small-scale agricultural production, of biodiversity, of locally produced and native seeds, of food sovereignty and of peoples' right to produce their own food and to integral agrarian reform.

A further issue is the unequal free trade negotiations taking place mainly with the United States and the European Union. In the rural areas, these mean putting land and territories, resources, knowledge and goods up for sale, in the interest of capital and the market. The CLOC supports the proposed Bolivarian Alternative for Integration of the Americas - ALBA, and commits to contributing to its formulation, development and future implementation.

The document adds that in order to implant the present model, the countryside has been militarized and farmers' struggles face repression or are treated as criminal activities, under the pretext of the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking. In several countries, foreign military bases have been installed, "that act as spear-heads for implanting various projects of territorial control and imposition of imperialist plans such as the Puebla-Panama, Colombia, Dignity, and others".

"Land, water, mining, energy resources and biodiversity are the heritage of the peoples; we are therefore against its privatization and commercialization…. We defend peasant farming, based on productive practices in a spirit of solidarity and that are respectful of nature. We call for the recovery and defense of native seeds that are the heritage of our peoples. We reject the use of GM seeds and the patenting of living things", states the Declaration.

This document also expresses recognition of the endeavors of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela to promote agrarian reform. It emits a call for the demilitarization of the countryside and the withdrawal of foreign military bases, as well as an end to persecution of rural organizations and their leaders, and the liberation political prisoners, held in custody simply because they are fighting for their rights and those of their peoples.

Action agenda

The action plan drawn up at the congress contemplates mobilizations and an agenda of struggle that will continue at the Peoples' Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata (November), the pacific march against the Ministerial Meeting of the WTO in Hong Kong, China, (December), as well as at the Mesoamerican Forum (December, Costa Rica) and the World Social Forum in Caracas (January), among other highpoints.

The rural organizations' march in Hong Kong is organized by the global farmers' organization, Via Campesina, to which CLOC is affiliated. Via Campesina was represented at the Congress by Min-ung- Park, Secretary General of the Korean Peasants' League (KPL), organization created in 1990 to defend the rights of Korean farmers, with some 5 million members. In the opening ceremony, Min-ung-Park indicated that his organization will be sending a delegation of 1400 peasant-farmers to Hong Kong, and emphasized that, although not all the Latin American organizations will be able go there, they can engage in simultaneous mobilizations at the international level. The Korean leader also expressed the commonality of the farmers' struggles in Asia and Latin America. He acknowledged the level of Latin America unity, and cited the organization of women and young people within the CLOC as a model that could be taken up in other continents.

Several others speakers also recognized that the input from the assemblies of rural women and young people contributed to enriching the Congress and to strengthening the CLOC plan for the coming years. Among other things, the CLOC supported a resolution of the Women's Assembly to launch, this coming 25th of November, a regional campaign against violence against rural women and girls, as part of the global campaign being launched by Via Campesina on the same date.

In the final session of the Congress, Itelvina Macciolli, of the Landless Workers' Movement of Brazil, considered that this congress has raised the standing of the CLOC, due to the depth of debate and reflection, and because it has ratified the achievements and expansion of struggles of the farmer movement in this past decade of existence of the coordinating body. "CLOC's principles of anti-capitalism and solidarity among peoples have been reaffirmed; and a major advancement is having debated the construction of an alternative project to the system of destruction of life, imposed by neoliberalism ", she underlined. In reference to the agenda of mobilizations, Macciolli added that "we have hard tasks ahead that we must complement with other strategic aspects such as the political formation of our leaders and our work in the field of the communication",

The congress concluded with the designation of regional responsibilities within the CLOC, as well as of the new operative secretariat, assigned to the Caribbean Region. For the first time in the ten years of the CLOC, the Operative Secretariat will be coordinated by an organization of women farmers, that is, the National Confederation of Women Farmers, CONAMUCA, of the Dominican Republic. Juana Ferrer, a leader of this organization, emphasized that "this it is a great challenge that reaffirms the commitment of a women's organization like CONAMUCA that has been working for more than 25 years in the fight and resistance against the neoliberal model and in benefit of women." She expressed conviction that, together with all the member organizations of the Caribbean region and the contribution of women, they will be able to take on this responsibility, because the women farmers have always been an example of resistance, firmness and combativeness. "Now there is greater recognition of our work from society, and from our male companions. And that recognition is very important in an organization like the CLOC, which motivates us to continue working", remarked Ferrer.

The outgoing Operative Secretary, Juan Tiney, indicated that the CLOC leaves this 4th Congress strengthened, and that the great challenges that lie ahead are the responsibility of the organizations in all countries of the region.