Friday, April 21, 2017

April 17th - International Day of Campesino Struggle From Honduras to Chicago - Fighting for land, food and justice.

On April 17th campesino and all kinds of rural as well as urban land and water rights groups participate  in the International Day of Farmer and Peasant Struggle.  The April 17th date was chosen by the international organization Via Campesina in 1996 to commemorate the massacre of 19 Brazilian peasants organized in the MST (Movement of Landless Workers) in Eldorado dos Carajas , Brazil at the same time as the Via Campesina’s international assembly. This year once again there were activities around the globe including both Honduras and Chicago. A representative from La Voz de los de Abajo attended some of the events in Chicago. 
Article by V. Cervantes

Campesinos in Honduras  - Agrarian Reform Now and Stop Criminalizing Campesinos!

April 17,Tegucigalpa - foto L. Rivera, OnNoticias
In Honduras the campesino organizations that belong to Via Campesina, including the CNTC (National Center for Rural Workers), held a march and a one day occupation of the plaza at the Honduran Congress on April 17th. They are demanding agrarian reform and an end to the criminalization of the campesino movement.  For Honduran campesino and indigenous communities the fight for land, food, and water continues to be framed by violence, evictions, and displacement of their communities. Since the military coup of June 2009 more than 200 campesinos and campesinas have been murdered because of their participation in land struggles.  6,000 campesinos and campesinas have some type of criminal charges against them and are on probation, awaiting trials or in jail related to their activism. The protest condemned the fact that a week earlier, near the northern town of Las Lomitas, 5 members of an organized campesino community that has been on the land for 10 years were arrested and were still in jail as of April 17th. Campesino leaders are emphatic in their analysis that the only solution to violence in the countryside and the repression against the campesinos, as well as a way forward out of poverty in the countryside and food dependency, is an integral, equitable land reform that puts land and meaningful agrarian assistance in the hands of the campesinos. Three years ago the campesino movement in Honduras wrote a real land reform law and got it introduced into the Congress but it was then tabled and has disappeared from sight.   

Also on April 17th, Honduran government authorities accompanied by police arrived for “an inspection” of the embattled CNTC campesino community “9th de Julio” in the province of La Paz. This inspection was supposed to be a surprise and the authorities expected to find only a small number of campesinos on the land at that time. However, the CNTC discovered the inspection plan and the community was accompanied by a large number of other campesinos and supporters in La Paz. CNTC leaders stated that the inspection was part of ongoing intimidation and part of the strategy to displace the campesinos. Fabricio Velásquez, one of the leaders of the community was  interviewed by  Defensores En Linea and stated that the authorities were visibly startled to find so many campesinos and, although the campesinos did nothing to deter the inspection, the officials and police only stayed perhaps 15 minutes. The “9th of July” community is emblematic of the organized campesino struggle in Honduras — they have been evicted more than 26 times in 7 years, 3 times in just the past 12 months. Each time their houses and crops are destroyed, but they return to rebuild and replant, despite the fact that all of the leaders have  criminal charges made against them. La Voz de los de Abajo has visited “9 de Julio”  a number of times and there are several articles in Honduras Resists with more information about CNTC land recuperations. 

April 17th In Chicago: Farmers, Environmental Justice and International Solidarity 
April 17, Chicago, foto Family Farm Defenders

In Chicago, Via Campesina supporters and food sovereignty activists from Family Farm Defenders, Friends of the MST, and Food and Water Watch also held actions and educational forums on April 17th. There were actions at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange during the day to protest that institution's price setting that is driving small dairy farmers out of existence and another action at the offices of TIAA Financial Services against land grabbing pension fund speculation that hurts both small farmers and pensioners.

In the evening a representative from La Voz de los de Abajo attended the educational forums. Joel Greeno (Family Farm Defenders), Jessica Fujian (Food and Water Watch) and Amy Mall (Family Farm Defenders) spoke on food sovereignty and environmental justice, and Jeff Frank of the Friends of the Brazilian MST reported on the International Land Reform Conference held in Brazil in 2016.  He also gave an update on the wave of repression and criminalization of the MST since the 2016 coup against President Dilma Rousseff. Two MST members have been arrested, the MST school was attacked by the police and fighting for land reform is being treated as a criminal conspiracy. 

The speakers drew many connections between the farmers and peasant struggles in South America and Central America with the struggles in the United States including supporting the Native people’s fight to defend water and territories in the US and the No DAPL movement, and the struggles of urban and rural communities for environmental justice and healthy food.
They were familiar with the campesino and indigenous movements in Honduras through groups like Grassroots International and Agricultural Missions that along with La Voz de los de Abajo are members of the Honduras Solidarity Network, and they invited La Voz to given an update on the situation for the campesinos in Honduras and the campaign for support for justice for Berta Caceres, indigenous leader assassinated in 2016.

March 1, Tegucigalpa
foto V. Cervantes
This is one more example of the importance and the possibilities of building more mutual solidarity to confront the attacks on the peoples' movements in the world today. 

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