Zuleima Vergel is the international relations liaison of the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current (CRBZ). In this interview, she walks us through the current situation in rural Venezuela and examines the formation of the National Productive Alliance, a CRBZ initiative that seeks to respond to the crisis while democratizing the countryside and recovering of Chavez’s way of doing politics.
The rural oligarchy has carried out a low-intensity war against campesinos in Venezuela since Chavez promoted the Land Law in 2001. However, it seems that the war has become more intense in the last year or so. On July 27, six militants of the Hugo Chavez Popular Defense Brigades and the CRBZ were killed in Ticoporo, Barinas state. On October 28, another CRBZ member, Reedys Morillo, was assassinated. What are the structural causes of the landowning class’ violence against campesinos, and why has that violence picked up more recently?
One of the first important things that happened after Chavez’s arrival to power is that he legitimated the struggle for the land, a struggle that goes way back in time. He did this through his discourse but also by promoting a very advanced Land Law. However, that produced an immediate reaction from the oligarchical class.
Their response was (and still is) tremendously violent. They went full force against campesinos and small producers that were committed to recovering idle land. The landowning class was responding to its own interests, since the political and legal changes were undercutting their privileges and damaging their interests.
So the landowning class’s violence has been present in the campo for a long time, but it has intensified in recent years. They have “polished” their methods by cooperating with Colombian paramilitarism.
You mentioned the Ticoporo Massacre, but we should also remember that last year, in May, CRBZ campesinos were killed in La Escondida. All this must be understood as a military operation that is directed at one political organization: the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current.
There are many issues at play here, but the main one is that our organization is very active in the territories, and we are proposing an alternative. We organize the campesino sector, we mediate with the state, and we develop plans and proposals together with the producers. At the same time, we continue to support occupations of idle land and work toward the eradication of latifundios [large estates historically devoted to livestock farming or monoculture]. All this goes against the interests of the landowning class.
Ticoporo is actually located in a strategic area of Barinas state, where there is a complex relationship between diverse actors. The CRBZ is committed to recovering that territory and defending the sovereignty of the nation. All this threatens the interests of the oligarchy, and that is why terror rears its head. It’s a message to our organization, and it aims to break the morale of the pueblo. They won’t succeed.