After walking for 20 days and traveling more than 400 kilometers on foot, the Admirable Peasants’ March finally reached Caracas. On August 2, they achieved their goal of meeting with President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, who congratulated them on their march and reiterated his commitment to working on a political agenda to address their demands.
The participants – peasants from different parts of the country – began their march on July 12 from Guanare (Portuguesa State) to Miraflores Palace [the official headquarters of the President of Venezuela] with the aim of making their voice heard, establishing their rights and presenting their proposals to the national government.
The participants belong to peasants’ collectives and councils, and Zamorano Fundos [development groups formed by socio-productive agricultural units] from different parts of the country, and marched under the banner of the Platform of Peasants Struggles. Many of them have the experience of taking over idle lands and have faced the onslaught led by large landowners against the Venezuelan peasantry, which has worsened in the last two years and is characterized by harassment, illegal and violent evictions, criminalization and even the murder of peasants.
The attacks on the peasantry have been intense and corrupt public officials have been complicit in it, which is why the intervention and firm pronouncements of President Nicolas Maduro on April 9 were necessary.
“This is not a complicit revolution of the landowners! This is a revolution of peasants, of justice!” he had said, ordering the creation of a special commission within the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) to investigate the facts and identify those responsible and the internal accomplices in the institutions.
Following this pronouncement, and in order to stop the wave of evictions against these communities, peasants’ organizations approached the National Institute of Lands (INTi) in search of solutions.
The administrative procedures on such issues should have taken only a few months but had ended up taking six or seven years. The Platform of Peasant Struggles noted that this generated a situation of administrative and legal insecurity that ended up impacting the land recuperation processes and in practice, favored the restoration of large estates and violence against peasant communities.
Although the INTi did attend to many cases, many significant cases remain unresolved, including those of landowner violence. Two months ago, Jesús León and Guillermo Toledo were kidnapped and killed in the state of Barinas. Their assassins are suspected to be hitmen hired by the landowner Carlos Pardi. There are more than 300 such cases which are still unresolved.
Along with the demands for right to land and justice, the Admirable Peasants’ March also focused on production.
Peasant communities provide 70% of the food consumed in the country, and are recognized as the main link in the food chain of Venezuela. Their role has been key in providing food to all the people in this context of the economic and financial war that seeks to annihilate the Bolivarian revolution.
However, despite the fundamental importance that peasant agriculture plays (including in the construction of sustainable production models), the recent agrarian policies implemented by the Bolivarian government did not recognize this reality. On the contrary, the representatives of agribusiness would benefit as preferential partners even if they are an active part of the economic war, said the Platform of Peasant Struggles.
The marching peasants reiterated more than once their support for Nicolás Maduro’s government, along with the need to present “constructive criticisms”, and be taken into account in order to find a solution to the problems that the country is facing.
The country’s tour by Admirable Peasants’ March transcended the peasants’ problems. At each stage of their long walk, the peasants had the support and solidarity of the people, which is reflected in the women and men who participated in this march