Venezuelan peasant organisations and their allies marched in the capital recently demanding justice for murdered peasant activists and the reform of an article within the penal code which they say “criminalises the popular struggle” for land.
In the past 10 years a total of 258 peasants have been murdered in what the peasants have called a “war” with large landed estates. Land owners have waged a campaign of violence against peasants and rural activists since the Chávez government passed a land reform act in 2001 aimed at redistributing large land holdings.
The march was organised by the Revolutionary Current of Bolivar and Zamora, the Ezequiel Zamora National Peasant Front, the Settler’s Movement, Socialist Tide, the National Union of Workers, the National Association of Free and Alternative Community Media and the Jirajara Movement, amongst others.
These movements declared themselves to be in a state of “permanent mobilisation” following the brutal torture and assassination of two rural activists this past April.
Unified under the name of the United Revolutionary Popular Bloc, the organisers declared themselves to be “with [President Hugo] Chávez, against imperialism, against impunity and against the criminalisation of the popular struggle”.
Starting at 10am in Plaza Venezuela in Caracas, more than 10,000 demonstrators marched to the National Assembly where they handed over a proposal to reform the penal code – specifically the article in which occupying private land or buildings is punishable by a prison sentence of between five and ten years.
“We are highlighting the need to stop criminalising the struggle and to put an end to impunity; for this reason we are proposing that they repeal the article in the penal code, we demand that they appropriate meaningful importance to the social movements’ struggles and that these are not treated like fights perpetrated by delinquents,” said Orlando Zambrano, member of the Ezequiel Zamora National Peasant Front.
Marchers called for the “democratic radicalisation” of the Bolivarian Revolution but denounced endemic bureaucracy, state inefficiency, and the censorship of “revolutionary criticism,” as obstacles to the deepening of the revolutionary process.
Some banners also demanded democratic control of the media – including that of the state – and condemned the handing over of “revolutionaries to the Colombian oligarchy”, in reference to the recent detention and extradition of alleged FARC members Perez Becerra and musician Julian Conrado.