International: campesinos hold worldwide day of action

Campesino groups around the world planned more than 250 activities to mark the International Day of Campesino Struggles on April 17, according to the international rural workers movement Vía Campesina. The day of action—which was announced at the International Campesino Conference held in Mali last Nov. 14-17—was intended to bring attention to the need for carrying out agrarian reform, for stopping the concentration of land in the hands of wealthy landowners, and for maintaining agricultural production based on campesino farming and the principles of food sovereignty. A special focus this year was to be opposition to monoculture for export and to the production of bio-fuel crops.

The April 17 activities were expected to range from marches and land occupations to conferences and photographic exhibits. Countries with participating groups included Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Uruguay, Indonesia, Mozambique, Canada, the US, France, Spain, Australia and the Palestinian territories.

Groups in Brazil got a head start on April 16 when the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) occupied the Agrarian Development Ministry in Brasilia; a tax office in Cuiabá, capital of the western state of Mato Grosso; the headquarters of the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA), located in Rio de Janeiro; and an estate in the southern state of Río Grande do Sul. (Adital, Brazil, April 17; TeleSUR, April 17)

In Haiti, more than 1,000 campesinos demonstrated on April 17 in the town of Colladère, near Hinche in the Central Plateau, to demand agrarian reform and oppose the monopolization of land for biofuel production. The protest was organized by the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP), whose spokesperson, Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, praised a model of biological agriculture which he said was able both to counteract global warming and to provide enough food for the world’s 7 billion inhabitants.

The group used the occasion to present what it called “the country’s first ecological village,” which houses 10 families that moved to the countryside after a January 2010 earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince and nearby cities. The homes were built using local materials, with financial aid from a US faith-based group, the Unitarian Universalist Society of Iowa City. Jean-Baptiste said the MPP plans to build a total of five of these villages for people displaced by the earthquake. (AlterPresse, Haiti, April 17)

Campesinos groups chose April 17 for the international day of action as a way of commemorating the massacre of 19 Brazilian campesinos on April 17, 1996, when police attacked a demonstration by some 1,500 MST members in Eldorado dos Carajás in the northern state of Pará. All but two of the police agents involved were acquitted. (Adital, April 17)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 22.

See our recent post on campesino struggles.