Venezuela’s campesino marchers achieved their immediate objective on August 2 by holding a public meeting with President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas that was nationally televised. They presented proposals for far-reaching reforms to state agrarian policies and institutions.
The multitude of small farmers at the meeting in Miraflores palace, who had marched 435 kilometres from Guanare, Portuguesa state, were given the chance to address the nation and the president over a series of grievances. These included land evictions, corruption in state bureaucracy and paramilitary violence.
The meeting with Maduro had been cast into doubt the night before, when the march arrived in Caracas only to be met by a heavy National Guard picket line just blocks from Miraflores.
Weary marchers, accompanied by a significant number of Caracas-based social movements, occupied the street in the rain, before meeting a commission from the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) headed by the body’s president, Diosdado Cabello.
The next day, they received the news that the president — who had received pressure from within his cabinet — would meet them.
Campesino leader Arbonio Ortega, from Portuguesa state, explained to the meeting that the march was “a necessity” due to the “reverses” in the Bolivarian Revolution in the countryside. He stressed that the march demonstrated the power of mobilisation and resistance of campesinos.
Among the grievances he outlined was corruption in local state entities, asking: “Why did we receive no support from the [United Socialist Party of Venezuela] government of Portuguesa state?”
Equally, Nieves Rios, from Zulia state, denounced the violent land evictions taking place there. Amid cries of “justice, justice” she accused corrupt sectors in the armed forces of protecting “certain interests” and “mistreating” the people.
Farmer Jesus Osorio presented the campesinos’ official document of proposals which he handed over to Maduro.
The proposals include declaring an agrarian emergency; the restructuring of the Ministry of Agriculture and all of its sub-bodies; an audit into the ministry’s functionaries; and a review of the agrarian courts in order to halt the criminalisation of the land struggle.
In response, Maduro applauded the farmers for “waking up the national consciousness of what is going on in the countryside”. Responding to the marchers’ grievances, Maduro called a campesino congress to be held next month.
He also scheduled a high-level meeting to address the problems of land evictions, the legal agrarian system — including the appointment and conduct of local agrarian judges, all allegations of violence against campesinos, as well as the cases of corruption.
The president ordered the Supreme Court president, the National Constituent Assembly president, the attorney-general and his executive vice president to attend the meeting.
[Abridged from Venezuela Analysis.]