[OPE] Venezuelan Farmer Rights Organizations Unite to Oppose Assassinations by Landed Elite

From: Gerald Levy <jerry_levy@verizon.net>
Date: Sun Mar 15 2009 - 09:43:38 EDT

Venezuelan Farmer Rights Organizations Unite to Oppose Assassinations by
Landed Elite

March 13th 2009, by James Suggett - Venezuelanalysis.com

 Mérida, March 13th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) -- Several Venezuelan small
farmer rights organizations united forces this week to prevent further
assassinations of rural community organizers. The groups also marched to
demand that the national government end impunity for those responsible for
these crimes, and to support the government’s land reform and food security

“This popular front must struggle against impunity, against hired killings,
and against paramilitarism,” declared coalition leader Inder Herrera during
the founding congress in Caracas on Tuesday.

The new front plans to team up with student activists, community councils,
artisanal fisher organizations, and some state security forces to prevent
any further assaults on rural community organizers.

Since Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez passed a land reform law in 2001, 214
rural activists have been murdered during their campaigns to carry out the
law, according to the Ezequiel Zamora National Farmers Front.

Braulio Álvarez, a National Assembly legislator and the coordinator of the
Simón Bolívar Farmers Front, said further investigations could reveal that
that the actual number of politically motivated murders of rural organizers
is more than 400.

The formation of the new front follows the assassination last Monday of
Mauricio Sánchez, who had been leading the struggle for land reform in
southern Zulia state, and farmer rights organizer Nelson López, who was shot
15 times in the back two weeks ago in Yaracuy state.

The government has arrested those suspected of having carried out the
murders, but the farmers are calling for a national investigation of what
they say is a network of large estate owners and private cattle ranchers
associations who gave the orders for the crimes.

“We consider it important and transcendental that we investigate to the
fullest and without hesitation the landed oligarchy that is killing our
brothers in the rural communities,” said Herrera Tuesday.

Venezuelan Agriculture and Land Minister Elías Jaua attended Tuesday’s
conference and promised to solicit a national investigation.

“We have come to listen to the proposals of this popular farmers’ movement
and to express the government’s commitment not to allow this situation to
continue,” said Jaua.

“One of the most atrocious crimes is that somebody dies while struggling for
a piece of land, that’s why we are going to ask for an appointment with the
Attorney General and the president of the Supreme Court to speed up these
investigations,” said the minister.

Over the past two weeks, the Agriculture and Land Ministry and other
government entities have taken under public ownership two privately owned
rice processing plants that were caught hoarding food and evading price
controls, and thousands of hectares of underused or idle land, in accordance
with the 2001 Land Law and 2008 Law on Food Security and Sovereignty.

The measures come shortly after a national referendum in which Venezuelan
voters approved a constitutional amendment to abolish term limits on elected
offices. Following the referendum, President Chávez said his administration
will correct its past mistakes by deepening its policies aimed toward the
construction of “21st Century Socialism.”

The farmer rights organizations marched through Caracas Monday to support
the government’s expropriation of socially irresponsible businesses and
private estates, and to demand an end to impunity for those who ordered the
murder of farmers.

“We completely support the measures that our Commander Hugo Chávez has taken
to occupy rice plants,” said Herrera to the press. “We must deepen the
revolution,” he said as the marchers gathered in front of Venezuela’s most
powerful private business association and symbol of anti-government
activity, FEDECAMARAS.

Minister Jaua recognized the need for the government to work with social
movement organizations such as the farmer rights fronts in order for the
hired assassinations to cease and the national food security policies to be

“We receive this support from the farmers and we are filled with strength to
continue the battle we are waging to guarantee the right to food security to
the Venezuelan people,” said the minister.

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