On the Way to the 8th Conference of La Via Campesina: “Towards the Globalization of Mobilizations in Defense of Life, Peace and Democracy”

First published by Comunicación para la Integración de NuestrAmérica

Thursday, 30 November 2023

In the run-up to the LVC 8th International Conference, which will be held from 1 to 8 December in Bogotá, the Forum on Communication for the Integration of Our America spoke with two members of the International Coordination of the Articulation, Nury Martínez Silva and Micherline Islanda Aduel.

Jimena Montoya (Latin American Center for Strategic Analysis, CLAE), Felipe Bianchi (Centro de Estudos da Mídia Alternativa Barão de Itararé and the ComunicaSul Agency), Marina Caixeta (Portal Desacato), and Javier Tolcachier (International News Agency Pressenza), participated in the collaborative interview.

On the debates that the organizations have been holding regarding the role of feminisms and diversities in the current historical moment, Nury Martínez Silva mentioned that during the 8th Conference of La Via Campesina there will be spaces for both thematic areas to discuss violence and anti-patriarchy.

On the struggle for the building of food sovereignty, Micherline Islanda Aduel (Tet Kole Ti Peyizan Ayisyen, Haiti) highlighted the work that the organizations that make up this 36-year-old movement have done in defense of Mother Earth. The young Haitian warrior also pointed out that food sovereignty is a political stance for the organization. “To build Food Sovereignty, it is necessary to practice Agroecology,” she said and explained that it is a method of its own, an identity that contributes to the good life and well-being of peasants, by introducing alternative ways to commodification. In turn, this way of working the land includes the non-use of chemicals in defense of life. “What we defend in CLOC‑Via Campesina is life, not only for peasants but for all the ones who live on the planet. Through this, we try to build a way out of imperialism from the grassroots,” she expressed and highlighted, as a voice coming from the youth of La Via Campesina, that “we have clarity on the need to continue with this vision. The ultimate goal is food sovereignty.”

On the tensions at the global level and the growing advance of the far right and the political positions of La Via Campesina in this regard, Martínez Silva considers that the corporate system and extractivism are advancing with force on the territories. “This is a concern for us because the ways of striking have changed,” she said, describing the so-called soft coups, which use judicial and legislative mechanisms to enthrone right-wing governments.

The leader expressed her concern about the advance of the right-wing in Europe and also about the humanitarian situation that the Palestinian people are going through. In the 8th Conference of La Via Campesina, there will be, according to Nury, a space to assess, analyze and come up with possible alternatives and alliances.

“Our slogan is that faced with global crises we build food sovereignty to ensure a future for humanity,” she said, adding that it is expected that from this meeting, after 30 years of struggle, La Via Campesina will expand the margins of alliances, towards the globalization of mobilizations, “in the struggle for peace and democracy”. Political education, she asserted, is very important for the analysis of the work.

According to Martínez, the unity of left-wing organizations is a difficult process “because neoliberalism has scattered them.”

However, the Colombian leader stressed that the demands of this global organization must go far beyond the rights to food. “Structural changes are necessary, for which deeper alliances are necessary, as the offensive of capital in Latin America is alarming,” she stated.

On the media lobbying in favor of agribusiness and on the spaces to build popular communication mechanisms to challenge meanings related to these issues, Micherline noted that agribusiness uses these tools to fight against the ideas of La Via Campesina and that this is connected to the land grabbing processes that governments carry out. Something that, as she warned, triggers the food crisis experienced at the global level.

In this process, according to the young leader, the WTO is an instrument that works against the interests of peasants. “This organization lobbies globally and we take actions against it,” she noted while stressing the need to create an international body that defends the interests of peasants. “We must confront the logic of agribusiness worldwide,” she said.

As for Nury, she mentioned that agribusiness in Colombia, which mainly exploits palm oil, bananas and sugar, uses propaganda to make this type of exploitation look “friendly” without addressing the impact it has on the lives of the population and territories.

According to the peasant union leader, popular communication media are not enough to counteract these narratives. However, organizations believe in the need to continue contributing to the construction of these spaces.

“In the 8th Conference of La Via Campesina there will be allied participants, who must help in these processes and contribute to training. We still have a lot to do to be able to visibilize our proposals and what agribusiness means.”

On the current political crisis in Haiti, the National Youth Coordinator of the Tet Kole Ti Peyizan Ayisyen movement blamed governments of the Core Group, made up of the embassies of the United States, France, Canada, Germany, Spain, the OAS and the European Union, among other foreign bodies, who are the ones who decide on everything in the country.

In that sense, they condemned “humanitarian” intervention as a new way of occupation in a country where there are no wars. Only in the capital city, Port‑au‑Prince, there are issues related to violence, but not in the other districts.

Concerning the difficulties arising from the forced migration of many Haitians from their territories and in particular of many young people, Islanda points out that it is imperialism and the Dominican bourgeoisie that have created a division between sister nations who live on the same island and do not consider themselves enemies. She added that peasant movements of both nations work together to strengthen solidarity between the two peoples.

Likewise, she condemned the murder of peasants in the northeastern region of the country with the aim of creating free trade zones. Peasants are now subject to labor exploitation on their own lands to build that infrastructure.

On the environmental and climate problems affecting the peoples in the region, Nury Martínez stated that these issues, which La Via Campesina summarizes under the concept of climate justice, are very important and will be addressed in a specific space during the Conference.

Climate change has altered seasons, provoking severe damage to the possibilities of farming and livestock breeding, and causing the forced displacement of people. The leader pointed out that, to save the Earth and humanity, modes of production must be changed, while she also added that what causes environmental degradation is mining, agribusiness, hydroelectric megaprojects, and river diversion. For this reason, La Via Campesina argues that peasant agriculture and agroecology should be at the heart of the debate to defend the planet and humanity.

Nury also referred to the creation of the IALAs (acronym for Latin American Agroecological Institute), which are already twelve spaces where young people are trained to stay in the fields under these paradigms.

But it is not possible to talk about food sovereignty without agrarian reform and without access to land, which the current government in Colombia are trying to implement through laws, as she pinpointed.

Regarding the obstacles hampering the project for Integral Agrarian Reform and the achievement of “Total Peace” in Colombia, a country in which armed conflict had a lot to do with the dispossession of land from the peasantry, the president of FENSUAGRO indicated that one of the problems is that most of the land suitable for agriculture is used by landowners for extensive livestock production.

There are a lot of institutional barriers, as the Colombian State is designed to go against the peasantry and, although the government wants changes, this undermines the possibility of accessing productive projects, the public procurement system, etc.

But small steps are being made and the peasant movement is giving support and participating, aware of the need to prevent a coup d’état against President Petro that the right wing has been trying to orchestrate practically since the beginning of the administration. For the first time in Colombian history, moreover, peasants are recognized as subjects of rights.

Peasant organizations value the efforts of the president very much and support him, but it is not easy. There are still many armed groups in Colombia and people are still being killed in the territories. Therefore, Total Peace must be built with the participation of the people from the territories.