Every year, on April 17, social movements and Campesinos commemorate the International Day of Campesino Struggle to honor the 19 campesinos of Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement murdered by Brazilian military in the northern state of Para on April 17, 1996 during a protest to demand their right to land.
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Struggle against the concentration of land in the hands of a few large landowners, a colonial legacy, has been marked in Latin America’s struggle for independence, nation-state building and its present. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Latin America has the most unequal distribution of land in the world.
A 2016 Oxfam report on the issue showed that 1 percent of productive land estates hold over half of the total arable land. That means 1 percent concentrates more land than the other 99 percent.
In Latin America Campesino organizations continue to demand agrarian reform to redistribute arable land, policies toward food sovereignty, and respect of the land and nature despite aggression, intimidation, disappearances and murders perpetrated by state and paramilitary forces.
A report published by the Land Pastoral Commission of Brazil registered an increase of violent conflict over land tenure in 2017, with at least 70 deaths; that is 15 percent more than in 2016.
The number of death threats increased by 86 percent, murder attempts by 68 percent and imprisonment of rural workers by 185 percent.
The U.N. has voiced its concern over the murder of social Campesino leaders in Colombia, which reached over 200 since 2016.
Spokespeople of several social organizations like Patriotic March have denounced the systematic murder of Campesino leaders who face death threats, and human rights violations. They have also demanded the government guarantee their right to life and property of land.
A U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights report, published on March 2, 2018, recorded a dramatic increase in the homicide rates in three zones most affected by the armed conflict between 2016 and 2017. In Mesetas the rate rise was of 1,095 percent, in Magui Payan, Nariño of 966 percent and in El Carmen, Norte de Santander of 916 percent.
The National Campesino Federation of Argentina has expressed its concerns over the economic model implemented by President Mauricio Macri, who is supporting large landowners and agro exporters, marginalizing small producers.
This situation is expected to worsen with the signing of a free trade agreement between Mercosur and the European Union.
According to the Federation’s Secretary General, Teodolina Villalba, there has been no proposal to solve the problem of latifundios, or large estates, that affect rural development and generates poverty among campesinos in debt to the private banking system due to the lack of state policies for grants and loans.
In Mexico this year the National Indigenous Congress (CNI), a nation-wide Mexican organization backed by the National Zapatista Liberation Army (EZLN), denounced the aggression on two of its members during their third attempt to enforce their land restitution sentence of territory illegally taken in the 1950s by landlords and ranchers.
Aggressors were reported to have threatened the Indigenous campesinos with burning their cars with gasoline, hanging them and then cutting their heads off if they ever came back.
Struggle over land and resources also reach large corporations like Constellation Brands, which produce Corona, Modelo and Pacifico beers. The northern city of Mexicali is currently resisting the corporation’s attempt to build a new factory in a region already affected by draught.