My trip to Haiti
MARCH 20, 2013
Small Farmers' Organizations Leading the Way
Caribbean and Latin American Integration
Since its founding in 1973, the MPP has been fighting the good fight for land reform, food sovereignty, women’s rights, employment, health care and education for all, and environmental protection (2). Its many activities include the formation of cooperatives and credit unions, leadership training, reforestation, and teaching the principles of sustainable agriculture. Today the MPP engages over 60,000 people in sustainable farming techniques. In 2010 the organization made international waves when its members burned seeds that had been donated to Haiti by the Monsanto biotechnology company in the wake of the earthquake (3).
The MPP is an active member of the Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Organizaciones del Campo (CLOC), a continental coalition that brings together 84 organizations of peasants, farm workers and black and indigenous communities of 18 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (4). The CLOC was founded at an international congress of grassroots groups that took place in Peru in 1994. That was a very exciting year for activism in Latin America. It was the year that saw the Zapatista EZLN emerge from Mexico’s Lacandon jungle. It was also the year that gave us the second indigenous uprising in Ecuador, part of stream of protest and organizing that would eventually result in the overthrow of three consecutive neoliberal presidents and the ratification of a new constitution, one that is among the most socially and environmentally progressive in the world. 1994 was also a year of protest marches by Bolivia’s indigenous coca growers, a sector that would later converge with other constituencies to battle against the corporate theft of natural resources such as water and natural gas, overthrowing two consecutive presidents and achieving the presidential election of Evo Morales, the hemisphere’s first indigenous head of state. It was also a year of major organizing and mobilizing for land reform in Brazil, Paraguay and Guatemala.
Our meeting at MPP is attended by representatives of farmers´ organizations not only from Puerto Rico and Haiti but also from Cuba and the Dominican Republic. This meeting is a modest step toward fulfilling the dream of a Confederación Antillana (Antillean Confederacy) that would unite the peoples of the greater Caribbean Antilles, an idea advocated by the 19th century pro-independence Puerto Rican revolutionary Ramón Emeterio Betances and his Cuban counterpart José Martí. Hopes for such a confederacy were dashed by the 1898 US invasion of Cuba and Puerto Rico, and since then have been furthered complicated by Washington’s constant interventionism, including its relentless hostility toward the Cuban revolution, its 1965 invasion of the Dominican Republic, and its suppression of Puerto Rico’s right to self-determination. Here in this multinational meeting in the middle of the Haitian countryside, the Antillean Confederacy is being built from the bottom up by small farmers and their organizations.
For two days, several agenda items are tackled, including the preparations for the upcoming twentieth anniversary of La Via Campesina’s founding, which will be celebrated at the organization’s congress in Indonesia next September. Strong emphasis is also given to the campaign on violence against women- no small issue, given that women do most of the world’s farm work, yet own almost none of the farm property and get close to zero remuneration for their toil. And there is also talk at the meeting about integrating CLOC/Via Campesina’s Caribbean region into the workings of the ALBA as well as CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. The CELAC, another effort at Latin American and Caribbean integration originally led by Hugo Chavez, is basically an Organization of American States, but explicitly excluding the US and Canada.