Peasant Reserve Zones in Colombia: Between magical realism and revolutionary praxis
/ Thursday 16 May 2013
Director of Latin American studies at Kean University
The three thousand peasants that participated in the third encounter of the National Association of Peasant Reserve Zones, which took place in San Vicente del Caguán in the department of Caquetá last Friday, were an important impetus to the FARC’s proposal of expanding these reserved zones from 830,000 hectares to 9.5 millions hectares. FARC’s proposal and this meeting demonstrate the dialectics between the negotiation in Havana and the popular mobilization—a rare phenomena in a peace negotiation processes. Such an example must be seen within the context of involving a wider cross-section of intellectuals, experts, and organizations into the talks. The National University and UNDP has achieved this by collecting proposal and inquiries about the agrarian question. The same format will be followed before commencing negotiation for the second item on the agenda in early April: Political Participation. This in addition to a website in which citizens could also send their views and proposals: www.mesadeconversaciones.com.co. During the previous peace negotiations that took place in 1998-2002, the FARC also called for participation but without a clear agenda like the one that was defined this time around by the warring parties. Now, the creation of Peasant Reserve Zones would mean expanding the areas of agricultural production to an area that is less than 4 million hectares, including permanent crops.
If the expansion of reserved zones with legal, cultural, environmental, and economic protection against big capital ever becomes a reality, it will chart a new path of development based on the peasant small economy where by Magical Realism and revolutionary praxis create a new reality setting a global example for development. The challenges, however, are enormous. Alonso Lozano, a participant in the mentioned encounter and peasant leader of the Patriotic March that took place in 2012 to bring attention to social and agrarian issues, was kidnapped and his whereabouts are unknown as of this writing. Another peasant leader, Gustavo Adolfo Pizo García, was killed on March 25. As president of the Association of Peasant Workers of Totoró (Asociación de Trabajadores Campesinos del Totoró) Pizo García was active in the creation and expansion of the Peasant Reserved Zones in the department of Cauca. Disappearing and killing peasant leaders have been standard operating procedure of state agents and their allies (paramilitaries and large landowners) since the early 1920s. Between January and September 2012, 37 human rights activists, most of whom were peasant leaders according to United Nation Human Right Commissioner Office, were killed. On an even more troubling note, between 2006 and 2011, 71 peasant leaders were killed as well. The expansion, or not, of the Peasant Reserved zones will be determined by the violent dialectic between Magic Realism and revolutionary praxis.