[News] ‘Despotic Patrimonialism’ Emerges in Rural Venezuela - Campesino March: an analysis of their objectives
news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Nov 9 10:52:18 EST 2018
‘Despotic Patrimonialism’ Emerges in Rural Venezuela: A Conversation
with Gerardo Sieveres & Arbonio Ortega
By Cira Pascual Marquina – November 8, 2018
/From July 12 to August 1st, a large contingent of Venezuelan
//campesinos//marched across the country in what came to be known as the
“Admirable Campesino March <https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/13966>.”
They walked from Guanare in Portuguesa State to Caracas to raise
awareness about the many problems facing small farmers, including
evictions, harassment and general neglect at the hands of state
/Here we learn about the march and its objectives in the voice of two of
the Venezuelan campesino movement's most prominent leaders, Gerardo
*How did the Admirable Campesino March come to be? What got a group of
**campesinos**to walk more than 400 kilometers?*
*Arbonio**Ortega: *Our march was triggered by the deep complexities of
the campesino situation. Criminalization of our struggle, difficulties
getting agricultural inputs, murder of campesinos, impunity, and the
lack of attention from state institutions, whose main purpose is
attending to campesino issues.
Months before we began our long march, we organized many meetings and
assemblies to address the critical situation of campesinos throughout
the country. In these meetings, we developed a plan or proposal for how
to attend to the campesino situation. From there, we began to look for a
channel to make our demands heard in Caracas. So we made a visit to
Caracas. There, we called for an end to the criminalization of landless
campesinos by the state, and we called for protecting the lives of those
being threatened by the landowning class’ thugs. During the visit, we
also requested that campesinos receive agricultural inputs, particularly
fertilizers, much needed for the successful completion of the first corn
Upon our return from Caracas, Jesus Leon and Guillermo Toledo, two
campesinos active in the movement, were killed in Palo Quemao, a
recovered farmstead1] in Barinas, in yet another case of landowner
violence [May 12, 2018]. As the criminalization and threats against many
campesino leaders continued, we began to hold meetings in other regions
of the country. We went to Guarico, Cojedes, Barinas, Portuguesa and Sur
del Lago, and out of those meetings emerged the plan to do symbolic
takeovers or occupations of the regional offices of two state
institutions: INTI [Venezuelan Land Institute] and Agropatria
[state-owned and operated supplier of seeds and other agricultural
inputs]. The last occupation was in INTI Barinas
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/13902>. After that occupation, we
were called by the head of the INTI to a meeting in Florentino [a
state‐run agricultural investigation center]. The outcome was a plan and
a series of agreements, but the institutions did not act upon those
It became obvious then that we had to develop another strategy to be
heard. And thus, we decided to go to Caracas again, but in larger
numbers, to demand that our voices be heard. In preparing the visit, we
analyzed the Zamora Takes Caracas March [a campesino takeover of Caracas
in 2006 to demand an end to impunity] and many campesino takeovers of
Caracas that were carried out when Chavez was still alive. The social
impact of the Zamora Takes Caracas March marked a seachange in the
campesino struggle, but after that there was a sort of dispersion of the
campesino movement and the cooptation of some campesino organizations.
So, analyzing the history of the campesino struggle in the years of the
Bolivarian Revolution, and reflecting on the current situation, we
decided that we would march to Caracas, as a collective sacrifice and as
an homage to earlier campesino struggles.
*If I remember correctly, during those June and early July days
**campesinos**faced more violence from the landowning class...*
*Arbonio**Ortega:* Right, around that time, in a recent recovery of land
in a farmstead called “El Esfuerzo” in Portuguesa State, thugs of the
landowning class burnt the school and some warehouses. They also burned
the sheds where the campesinos were living, and that became yet another
cause for us. With this situation in mind, and in light of the upcoming
two month anniversary since the assassination of Jesus Leon and
Guillermo Toledo, we decided that we were going to go to Caracas on foot.
We began walking on July 12 and along the way we found tremendous
solidarity from the very poor people living by the side of the road. But
also enormous barriers and hurdles were set up by government
institutions: they made parallel “campesino” marches, broke promises,
and launched smear campaigns.
From that point forward, the story is well known. We walked more than
400 kilometers from Guanare in Portuguesa State, and along the way
campesinos from different regions of the country joined us, while humble
people living by the side of the road gave us water and shelter.
Eventually we were joined by Reyes Parra, a campesino leader from
Barinas State, from the “La Escondida” campesino homestead, a place
where we had done an assembly with more than 300 campesinos days before
the beginning of the march. His truck carried the water needed to keep
us walking. After a while, he went back home to fix his truck, which had
some problems. Immediately upon his return to the homestead, Reyes Parra
was killed. But we were not going to give up!
We continued, and as we went on with our march, we met with campesinos,
workers, social movements. Everybody who we found along the way gave us
the strength to continue! People gave us shelter, water, food. The
alternative media committed to covering the march, to make up for the
blackout from the state media, which censored all coverage.
We continued to advance, and in Valencia the column began to grow very
quickly. Many more people from around the country joined us and our
voice was now being heard loud and clear not only through alternative
media, but also through social media which began to come to our side.
We arrived in Caracas on August 1, and social movements received us with
warmth and solidarity. That was very moving! We walked towards
Miraflores and found all sorts of hurdles along the way, but eventually
we were able to talk to President Maduro
So what triggered our march? The terrible situation of campesinos whose
voices need to be heard. And it should be known that the problems
remain, and that is why we have not left Caracas. We will stay here
until there is clear evidence that solutions to the campesinos’ problems
are on the way.
*What you call the Bolivarian Campesino Agenda brings together the
grievances and requests of the **campesino**sector. How does this agenda
*Gerardo **Sieveres**: *For us, the Campesino March was a school. We
began our long journey because of the problems in the farmsteads: the
problem of the criminalization and judicial persecution of campesinos.
We walked to call for an end to campesino assassinations and to impunity
and finally to bring to the public eye the need to regularize land
tenure. We also marched to demand access to agricultural supplies.
In the 23 days that it took us to reach Caracas, we engaged in a
permanent conversation and debate. In every stopping place we debated;
during the long walks we talked and analyzed; at night, after the long
day, we reflected. Thus we began to make our demands more precise. Our
demands began to include issues like the decentralization of Agropatria
and Pedro Camejo [state company for agricultural production]. In the
debate some would say, “No, those are actually decentralized,” and we
would say “Yes, but we want them to be independent of the government,
because the Agriculture Ministry is incapable of responding to our needs.”
After hearing our demands, the president committed himself to addressing
(and finding solutions for) problems in five areas: land, production,
justice, public services [institutional problems], and organization. In
that meeting, he ordered, in a very emphatic manner, that the lands
given to campesinos in Hugo Chavez’s government be given back to them.
After that, work tables were set up, but frankly for a long time, not
*Let’s move to the main points in the Bolivarian Campesino Agenda: the
synthesis of proposals that come out of assemblies, debates
**and**conversations before, during and after the Admirable Campesino
*Gerardo Sieveres:* The first item in the agenda is “Land and New
Territories.” Here we are talking about safeguarding the campesino
population and its right to produce in the territory. Basically, we want
to address the campesino population's integrity and right to organize.
We are talking about establishing a network of all campesino farmsteads
with a view toward creating integrated “Campesino Development Zones.” If
we are able to unite campesino farmsteads, we will be safer and more
efficient. All this, obviously, goes hand in hand with the issue of
assigning tenancy of unused lands.
We have a singer and songwriter in Venezuela, Ali Primera, who is really
a universal artist. In one of his songs he says that the people [pueblo]
should be like a dried cow skin: when someone steps on a dried cowskin,
the opposite end will rise up. That is what we understand as “campesino
territoriality”: an integrated space for our struggles, but also with
the long-term aim of establishing an economic campesino system. This
economic system that would extend from the field to the stewpot. We are
thus talking about having real power, about ensuring sovereign
production and the satisfaction of basic food needs.
So this new territoriality is based on a productive model. And what is
our model? Our productive model is the idea of “agricultural socialism,”
basically Chavez’s proposal… which has, surprisingly, been abandoned.
Really, nobody talks about his model!
The productive model that Chavez proposed is based on processes of
collective “recovery” of the land and socially-oriented production, with
all its implications. We, the campesinos, with the right granted by
Chavez to produce in the land, we must produce to satisfy collective,
This brings us to the second point in our agenda, which is “Strategic
To understand this we have to go back in history. After the massacre of
indigenous populations with the arrival of the Spanish colonists, a new
culture emerged: the mestizo culture. Mestizo culture results from the
mixing of the indigenous peoples with the colonizers. That is how our
campesino culture emerges.
We have a long historical and genetic baggage of colonization, but we
also have the historical and genetic baggage of indigenous
rebelliousness, of liberty and of resistance. Thus we arrive at the
issue of recovering our roots. Campesino production happens in the
periphery, in less inhabited territories, in the more isolated places;
campesino production is resistance production, but it is also sovereign
production. In these isolated areas, we have the wherewithal to produce
and satisfy social needs.
So when we talk about “strategic production,” we are talking about
producing in a planned process to satisfy the needs of people, who are
facing a profound crisis and the threat of imperialism, which wants to
take what is ours.
So “strategic production” means organizing and planning the crops of
cassava, yam, plantain, and corn: producing to satisfy the Venezuelan
people's basic needs.
The third item is “Integral and Structured Justice of the Countryside.”
Our proposal is that, given the justice system's inability to respond to
the campesino's collective needs, a process of juridical self-protection
should be implanted. We have to review the existing laws in this regard;
for instance, the law recognizes the figure of the justice of peace in
the barrio. Thus, we are proposing to build “peace courtrooms” at the
local level, in the rural territories. In this system, the judge,
hearing charges against a landowner who had a campesino killed, would be
a fellow campesino, his peer.
This is very important, because the truth is that certain sectors of the
government are using the judicial system to criminalize campesinos, to
dispossess campesinos of their land. How do they do this? They make
false allegations and eventually open legal cases.
For instance, on social media, government spokespeople are making false
claims against us, saying that Arbonio burned a school... thus Arbonio
should be put in jail because he is a threat to society! Why, because he
is a thorn in the side of a power group that has nothing to do with the
aims of the revolution. There is another person from the Campesino March
who is being called a terrorist on social media, or myself, a humble
campesino – now in social media some are claiming that I’m selling land!
All these baseless claims are made on social media to threaten us.
Basically, they are threatening to with press charges that would be
founded on rumors that they have planted. They are, in essence, cooking
up judicial “false positives.” They do similar things with landless
campesinos who occupy unproductive land.
So, when we talk about Structured Campesino Justice, we are talking
about a system that bypasses the current, corrupt judicial system which
doesn’t want to be reformed… We are talking about establishing a model
for and by campesinos, a system that will ensure justice and peace in
the countryside. It’s the only way really. We [campesinos] are the only
ones who know our reality.
All this must go hand in hand with the development of a campesino
militia. The objective of this militia would be to protect our territory
when facing the brutal landowner's threats, the narcoviolence of those
who want to build drug corridors, or the new agrarian bourgeoisie's
So those are the three main lines of our struggle...
*Obviously, all this must happen hand in hand with a profound reform, or
even a revolution, within the existing institutions.*
*Gerardo Sieveres: *That is certainly the case. One thing that is
important to underline is that when we met with President Maduro, he
talked about the need to reform the government’s agricultural
institutions. In this regard, what we say is that while the institutions
must change, more than changing directors, we must strive to change
their modus operandi, their internal logic.
And this brings us to Enrique Dussel’s recent visit and the founding of
a Decolonization Institute. The truth is that our institutions are
colonized by an “anti-people” logic. The first thing that must be
decolonized in Venezuela is power, the power which resides in state
institutions. The colonial behavior that operates in institutions must
be eradicated. So let’s decolonize institutions!
We have seen the development of a “despotic patrimonial” logic
colonizing institutions in the recent past, and it must end. This is the
colonised practice that currently inhabits institutions. We say that
institutions operate now in a despotic patrimonial manner because these
spaces employ a deeply despotic logic. From the bottom to the top, there
is disregard for the law, and they do with the patrimony as they wish.
What should be done with this despotic patrimonialism in state
institutions? Well, the state institutions must be decolonized,
eliminating these practices.
*I assume that when you talk about “despotic patrimonialism,” you refer
to the practices associated with the emerging landowning bourgeoisie,
the so-called “revolutionary bourgeoisie”?*
*Gerardo Sieveres:* Let’s explain this in three historical phases.
The historical struggle of campesinos has been against whom? First, we
struggled against the feudal lord. Then there is a second moment in
which we had (and still have) a very intense struggle against the
oppressing landowning class. But additionally, we are now struggling
against the despotic patrimonialists of the “revolutionary bourgeoisie.”
They are the ones behind the terrible functioning of public
institutions. That is the first block that must be overcome in
decolonizing institutions with the new institute that President Maduro
formed. He is our president, and we trust that he will take the right
path in this regard.
*What is next?*
*Gerardo Sieveres:* We must defend with all of our strength President
Nicolas Maduro. He entrusted his word to us, he committed himself to
solving the campesino bloc's problems. Thus, those committed to
Chavismo, with our decision to follow Chavez’s path clear as the full
moon, we are committed to our president and his word. The commitment
he made to us is a brake against the revolutionary bourgeoisie's logic
of despotic patrimonialism, which is a cancer inside institutions that
tends to take Chavez's project out of the picture. That bourgeoisie is
breaking the moral backbone of our process. But the moral objectives
cannot be broken, and we count on President Maduro for that! The rural
and urban youth, all who have accompanied us, all revolutionaries, the
social movements, we must all walk together towards reinstating Chavez’s
 A recovered farmstead is a plot of unused land claimed and occupied
by landless campesinos. The 2001 Land and Agricultural Development Law
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/5432> laid out the basis of the
agrarian revolution and created the legal framework for granting
landless campesinos the right (and conditions) for producing.
 Revolutionary bourgeoisie is a term used by Venezuelan Agricultural
Minister Wilmar Castro Soteldo which generated a large controversy
within Chavismo, as it was interpreted as a defense of the emerging
 As Chávez’s cancer worsened, he named Maduro his choice in a
possible electoral contest. “My firm opinion, as clear as the full moon
– irrevocable, absolute, total – is… that you elect Nicolas Maduro as
president,” he said in a dramatic, final speech in December 2012.
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the News