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Murder of Small Farmer Rights Organizer Sparks Protests in Yaracuy, Venezuela

James S | 21.02.2009 14:25 | Free Spaces | Repression | Workers' Movements | South Coast | World

Small farmer rights groups plan to march across the city of San Felipe in Venezuela’s Yaracuy state this Saturday to demand that the hired assassins of Nelson López, a small farmer rights organizer, be brought to justice. López, who was shot fifteen times in the back last Thursday, is the 213th small farmer (campesino) to be murdered since 2001, the year the government of President Hugo Chávez passed a sweeping land reform law which set the conditions for re-distribution of idle sections of large estates to small farmers, according to the Ezequiel Zamora National Farmers’ Front (FNCEZ), one of the groups convoking Saturday’s marches.

According to Braulio Álvarez, a National Assembly deputy and farmer rights organizer from Yaracuy state, the directors of the National Cattle Ranchers Association and the National Federation of Cattle Ranchers (FEDENAGAS), along with two powerful landowners, were responsible for planning López’s murder.

“How much longer will the murder of small farmers at the hands of Colombian paramilitaries and hired assassins, financed by large estate owners and FEDENAGAS, remain in impunity?” Álvarez asked during a town hall meeting organized by the Unified Regional Agrarian Command (CRAU) in Yaracuy on Thursday.

FEDENAGAS and the other implicated cattle ranchers associations have not issued a response to the accusations.

The FNCEZ, Venezuela’s Culture Ministry, the regional director of the Agriculture and Lands Ministry, three leaders of the small farmer rights movement, and several members of the National Association of Free, Alternative, Community Media (ANMCLA) were also present at the town hall meeting.

These organizations demanded that the Venezuelan Attorney General dismiss Yaracuy District Attorney Alejandro Márquez for having accused Nelson López of being an “invader” of private property, and District Judge Linda Lugo for having served the interests of large estate owners and FEDENAGAS against small farmers in Yaracuy.

The organizations also spoke of the “historical debt” owed to small farmers, based on the oppression experienced by small farmers at the hands of the Spanish oligarchy for several centuries.

James S