Notes from the VII conference: Political context and struggles in 2017 in North America

The first afternoon of the VIIth International Conference of La Via Campesina was dedicated to the international political context which is characterized by the unsolvable capitalist crisis and ever stronger pressures on populations, states and the environment, together with the dangerous commercialization of natural resources. The following day, the struggles and resistances were evoked. La Via Campesina’s members, throughout the world, consider that the only alternative to the imposed model is food sovereignty, and that agroecology is the only way to achieve this and to feed the people. In these two spaces the regional specificities were analyzed.

Political context

The peasants and smallholders of the three large North American countries are all impacted by the adverse effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which will be renegotiated in August. This agreement reactivates aggressions against the indigenous and African-American populations, as well as against migrants, the favorite target of the Trump administration that provides such cheap labor, in particular in the agricultural sector. Other dire contextual elements include: numerous pesticides have been reauthorized in the United States; the budget for the militarization of US law enforcement is increasing to the detriment of social programs; and Mexico’s criminal economy (drugs, but also arms, prostitution and organ sales) now makes up 10% of the country’s GDP.

Struggles and resistance

The election of the 45th US president, in spite of or because of the dangers it poses, has contributed to the intensification of the mobilization of citizens – starting with women and young people – who have become aware that their rights are truly threatened. The battle at Standing Rock has not only highlighted other struggles connected to land and extractivism, but has also activated or reinforced solidarity links between indigenous people and various environmental and civil rights’ defense movements. Civil society is starting to unite in favor of sovereignty and against capitalism. Grass-roots activism is organizing to demand that banks, pension funds and governments abandon planned investments in useless large-scale projects or land purchases on other continents. Peasants and small-holders are allying themselves with fisherfolk and indigenous people to create networks and working groups that promote agroecology, whilst consumers increasingly understand the links between GMOs and their impact on health and the economy.