Langues

(UNESCO / Japan Young Researchers' fellowships programme)

The peasant organization in Colombia, difficulties and possibilities of democratic participation, from a comparative perspective with the MST (Movement of Landless Workers) in Brazil

Summary of research carried out: 
The peasant organization in Colombia, difficulties and possibilities of democratic participation, from a comparative perspective with the MST (Movement of Landless Workers) in Brazil

During my stay in Brasilia I contacted Rita Zanotto, coordinator of the Via Campesina, who undertook the link-up with the MST secretariat in Brasília and with the MST secretariats in the places where I was going to do my field work. I was thus able to interview several national MST leaders in Brasilia and I was made welcome in the regional bodies. Then I went to Pernambuco, where I visited the MST state directorate in Caruarú, two hours from Recife. There I was able to witness the elections of mayors and town councillors of the municipality, in which the MST took an active part. I likewise attended the meeting of the state coordinating entity during the days I was there, taking the opportunity to interview quite a number of people. From Pernambuco I went to the state of Rio de Janeiro, where I also conducted interviews and visited some settlements. From there I went to the state of Paraná, where I initially met an MST adviser who provided me with very important written material on the movement and organized my visit of the state. In Curitiba I visited the MST state secretariat, where I interviewed state leaders and obtained written material on the movement. I went to Cascavel, a region of historic importance where the movement was founded in 1985. In Cascavel I visited several settlements and encampments, including the Tierra Libre camp on land expropriated by the state from the multinational Syngenta Seeds, which in a historic dispute the MST succeeded in having expelled from the state and then established an encampment on its former grounds.

There I interviewed MST grassroots activists and leaders, attended a number of meetings in the area and accompanied the secretariat leaders during several activities. In Paraná I also visited the Copavi cooperative in the Victoria settlement, in the municipality of Paranacity and interviewed many of the cooperative workers during the days of my stay. From Paraná I went to the state of de Sao Paulo, where I lodged at the local MST training and research centre. Some training courses were under way there, which enabled me to conduct some interviews and gather MST documentation. I also visited the urban communes. They are located near the main towns and are made up mainly of persons from the favelas of Sao Paulo, hence of urban origin. In Colombia I interviewed national leaders of the CNA coordinated my visits to organizations in the regions. I did field work in the Catatumbo region of North-East Colombia, interviewing several of its members. I also did field work in Cauca department and paid some visits to the peasant farming zones. The experience was very valuable and full of lessons.

 

11 June 2009

Translated from Spanish by UNESCO