Fighting for Food Sovereignty in Guatemala

Chelsea Carrick writes in NACLA on Indigenous struggle and land rights in Guatemala, especially with reference to rising global food and consumer prices.

On April 26 and 27, Guatemalans demonstrated throughout the country, blocking roads and demanding an end to high food and fuel prices, as well as calling for government accountability and the resignation of President Alejandro Giammattei. Protesters carried signs stating “we are the generation that will no longer remain quiet before injustice,” and “if there is no justice for the people, there will be no peace for the government.” Above all, the Paro Multinacional (multinational strike), organized by the Comité de Desarrollo Campesino (Campesino Development Committee, CODECA), demands that the Guatemalan government give voice and recognition to the country’s more than 24 Indigneous nations. A member of CODECA, who preferred not to be named to emphasize the collective nature of the group, claimed that the organization’s fight is one of the right to territory, which goes beyond land and encompasses the right to resources, culture, and history. “It is about more than land to harvest,” he stated, “it is about the people who inhabit it and, above all, the natural resources, which is what the Indigenous communities in Guatemala protect.”

Over the last few years, food prices in Guatemala have risen as a result of factors related to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In 2021, the cost of corn and beans rose by 25 and 34 percent, respectively, and prices are only expected to get higher. These issues exacerbate a decades-long increase in food prices resulting from inequality in access to land and an emphasis on export crops over food staples. Due to the dominance of government-supported major agricultural businesses, Guatemalans are forced to pay import prices for food that was once grown domestically. Because most Indigenous Guatemalans do not make a wage that covers these costs, the issue of how land is used and by whom has greater urgency. The minimum wage for agricultural workers is Q2,872.55, yet as of February 2022, the cost of the basic basket—the minimum amount of food needed to sustain a family of five—was Q3,134.40.

According to CODECA, the Giammettei administration has aggressively combated the peasant occupation of territorial lands, burning the homes and belongings of communities it refers to as “invaders.” This process is referred to as “cleaning,” and the land is ultimately given to large landowners. In the last three years, according to the CODECA member, 23 activists in the movement for territory have been murdered, and there have been 270 cases in which activists have been criminalized for their activities.

You can read the full piece, with links, here, Fighting for Food Sovereignty in Guatemala.

Categories: Environment, Evictions, Guatemala, Human Rights, Indigenous peoples, Justice, Land, Mining, Poverty, Resource Extraction, Solidarity in Action, Violence

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