...About Peasant Reserve Zones
What is a Peasant Reserve Zone?
/ Sunday 18 August 2013
For 54 days an enormous mobilization of peasants of the North Western Colombia kept blocked the highways of the important region of Catatumbo, near to the Venezuelan border. Catatumbo, which means “land of the lightning” in the barí native language, is a key territory for geostrategic natural resources like oil, coltan and coal, a coveted land by transnational capital and the scenario for a new chapter of the history of class struggle in Colombia.
The main demand of the local peasant movement is the transformation of Catatumbo in a Peasant Reserve Zone (Zona de Reserva Campesina - ZRC). But, what`s a ZRC and why a huge number of poor peasants is blocking the roads for it?
The ZRC is a legal figure; not an invention of the peasants of Catatumbo. It is constituted in Law 160 of 1994, a legal body born as a result of the pressure of the enormous peasant movement of settler peasants of regions like Sumapaz, El Pato – Balsillas, Río Cimitarra, La Macarena and Calamar. The law created a legal way (the ZRC) to allow access of the rural workers to the property of their settled lands.
Moreover, the 160 Law defined another important figure: the Unidad Agrícola Familiar – UAF (Peasant Farmer Unity), a measure of a fair amount of area that allows suitable economic living conditions for a peasant family. The definition of UAF sought the abolishment of land concentration and the establishment of a new stratum of landowners.
From 1994 to today, a lot of reforms and official silences mutilated the original spirit of Law160. In spite of the delimitation and creation of five ZRCs (Cabrera, Sur de Bolívar, Calamar, Pato-Balsillas, Río Cimitarra) with approximately 70.164 hectares, a lot of initiatives for new ZRCs have been blocked by the State bureaucracy that insists that the idea of the ZRC comes from a mysterious plan of the communist guerrilla to create “independent republics” on the countryside, based on insane Military Intelligence reports.
Since 2010 the struggle of the Colombian peasant communities has exacerbated. The government’s negligence to attend the application of settler peasants who want to legalize their settlements and create ZRCs forced rural workers of all regions to get organized and mobilized. They created the Asociación Nacional de Zonas de Reservas Campesina – ANZORC (National Association of ZRC), which groups the constituted ZRCs, the ZRC on the way of being constituted (Losada-Guayabero, Güejar, Sumapaz, Montes de María, Perla Amazónica), and ZRCs de facto, founded in strong peasant resistance and self-determination that reclaims its right to become ZRC (i.e. the mentioned Catatumbo, and others like Inzá-Totoró, Páez, Corinto and Miranda).
Day by day, Colombian peasant movements turn stronger. At least for now, a National Agrarian Strike is on the agenda for the next August 19. A new date for social struggle, in a country where people call out for structural changes.