Campesinos Shut Down Highways Across Guatemala
Guatemalan farmers’ organizations, including the Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA) producers of CoDev’s Café Ético Guatemalan coffee, mobilized across the country today after the long awaited Rural Development bill was blocked by manouevres of the Guatemalan business elite.
Bill 40-84 seeks to alleviate the severe poverty small producers are subject to, providing them with access to land, credit and technical assistance. During last year’s electoral campaign both leading presidential candidates committed to pass the initiative, which was developed through a long process of consensus building between small farmers’ groups, NGOs and church organizations.
However, when the new president Gen. Otto Perez Molina failed to present the bill to congress, thousands of farmers mobilized last March in a 210km march to the Capital. The trek galvanized popular sympathy for the farmers and in negotiations with their representatives, Perez Molina agreed to introduce the bill to congress.
Bill 40-84 must be passed before congress recesses today (November 30) or it will die on the order paper. Leaders of the parties represented in congress promised to pass the bill yesterday, but early in the morning Guatemala’s traditional business leaders presented a challenge to the initiative in the Constitutional Court and pressured enough congress people to stay out of the house to prevent the quorum needed to approve it.
Farmers’ organizations, that have been waiting patiently for the bill for almost a year, are outraged and early yesterday (November 29) thousands took key highways throughout the country. They vow to step up their actions until congresspeople return to the house to vote on the bill, but fear a possible violent government crackdown.
CCDA coordinator Leocadio Juracan is appealing to Canadians to provide the international witnesses that may deter such attacks. “We call on ….our support network in Canada, to be vigilant in monitoring what may happen here as we prepare to escalate actions to coincide with the (final) sessions of congress.” he said this afternoon.
To see more photos of the farmer actions in Guatemala and to receive regular updates “like” Cafe Justicia BC’s Facebook Page.