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Interview with the National Indigenous Peasant Movement (MNCI). If retentions fall, the hectares with soybeans increase

Interview with the National Indigenous Peasant Movement (MNCI). If retentions fall, the hectares with soybeans increase

By Darío Aranda

They are the largest rural organization in the country, with 15,000 peasant families. They warn that a drop in soybean withholdings will bring about an advance in monoculture, they consider it “cynical” that the Rural Society refers to poverty and they do not understand why the Government shelters the Agrarian Federation in the Undersecretariat of Family Agriculture, the state space that it should take care of the peasant sector.


They raise animals for self-consumption and harvest cotton, they are muleteers and vine workers, axmen and charcoal producers. Ancestral owners of plots where they work and live for generations. The National Peasant Indigenous Movement (MNCI) is made up of fifteen thousand families from seven provinces, the base of the rural pyramid, men and women who put their bodies to hard work in the fields, hardened hands and clear ideas. “We do not grow soybeans, we do not understand the land as a business, we are not wealthy who exploit rural workers. Perhaps that is why the media, and the political class, do not call us ‘field’ ”, they shoot with precision. They warn that a drop in soybean withholdings will bring about an advance in monoculture, they consider it “cynical” that the Rural Society refers to poverty and they do not understand why the Government shelters the Agrarian Federation in the Undersecretariat of Family Agriculture (the state space that should deal with the peasant sector). Three members of the Indigenous Peasant Movement –Diego Montón, Ramiro Fresneda and Ariel Méndez– point to the underlying claim: a change in the agrarian model.

-Why does a large part of urban society use Mesa de Enlace as a synonym for the countryside and forget about the peasant sector?

-D.M .: The Mesa de Enlace represents mainly businessmen and corporations that benefit from the high concentration that currently exists of land, natural assets and markets. It is an association of people that maintains that the most important thing in life is profit and profitability. For them private property and excessive profit are the main pillars of a society. For them, land is just another commodity. The true countryside has nothing to do with that: the land, nature and peasant families are life, solidarity and work.

-R.F .: Currently the true rural population is being overwhelmed by the Mesa de Enlace, the agribusiness, which tries to deprive us of the land and the means to produce it. It is obvious that they invest a lot of money in creating that false image that they are folksy and hardworking, that they are the homeland and tradition, but it is a whole shell armed together with the media, which confuses agribusiness with countryside.

-A.M .: Historically the agricultural sectors are organized around organizations that represent them in their productive and class character. The organizations that make up the so-called Liaison Table represent upper and middle sectors of the agrarian bourgeoisie. We are not part of that ‘field’ with soybeans, surpluses and wealthy leaders nucleated in traditional entities that have never put their hands in the ground and that exploit our comrades. They claim for their withholdings, we denounce the looting of this monoculture agricultural model

-Why does the idea that the Agrarian Federation represents small producers remains?

-D.M .: Agrarian Federation invests a lot of money in that. Contribute and write in the main media to generate that idea, which is false. If Eduardo Buzzi is a small producer, what is Doña Ramona Busdamente, in Córdoba, with its few hectares, scarce water and few goats?

-R.F .: At some point it would be necessary to clearly define what is called “small” producer. As understood by the peasant sector, the Agrarian Federation has long been made up of medium and large agricultural entrepreneurs. But since this representation is held by the CRA and the Rural Society, the Agrarian Federation tries to assume itself as the entity of the little ones. It would be important for a journalist to ask Buzzi or De Angelli how much money they make per year, perhaps there we will know how small producers they are.

-A.M .: It must be remembered that in the 90's the Agrarian Federation producers that did not become sojized disappeared and the entity did nothing for them. Furthermore, the entity does not say that its affiliates, with the complicity of the political and legal system, evict peasants. On the other hand, let's be honest: these entrepreneurs do not harvest food for the benefit of the people, they produce fodder for speculation in the foreign market.

-When the fight for resolution 125 began, you pointed out that the Liaison Board and the Government were partners who were fighting over a portion of the cake and that at some point they will fix it. How do you see it today?

-D.M .: Although we always said that we support the retention policy, we also said that this is insufficient. It is clear that there is no policy for the peasantry, for the indigenous, that we are the subjects who can change the productive logic.

-R.F .: The Kirchner administrations forged a strong alliance with the large agricultural corporations that had an excessive growth of their profitability, in addition to having access facilities to public officials that displaced peasants or indigenous communities rarely have.

-A.M .: The Ministry of Agriculture is tailor-made for the Liaison Table and these entrepreneurs receive millions of pesos in subsidies while peasants and family farmers hardly see crumbs that in total do not reach five percent of the total budget. This Government has not changed that.

-Is the fight for profitability?

-D.M .: At this point we believe that it is economic and ideological. The profitability of soy is currently huge and with withholdings and production expenses, entrepreneurs earn a lot of money, soy is still more than profitable. It would be a question of going to see how these gentlemen live and the properties they have. But it is also an ideological struggle because the agribusiness model does not accept that a State acts by regulating the economy and markets to distribute income, it does not even accept withholdings or export regulation, which are lukewarm ways to intervene in the market.

-R.F .: For the agribusiness model, the only possible intervention is the subsidy to companies, the rest is heresy and that is why they fight with such bellicosity. It must be clear that the Mesa de Enlace represents agribusiness and industrial agriculture, a devastating model of nature, devastating peasant communities and depleting food for the peoples.

-TO. M .: The model that the Mesa de Enlace is totally contradictory with peasant and indigenous life. They are our main enemies in the territory because they are the ones who, with bulldozers and armed guards, with the complicity of corrupt policemen and judges, try to deprive us of our lands, spray our communities with poisons from airplanes, pollute our waters and exploit peasants and indigenous people. that they must work as pawns in their fields.

-If the withholdings are lowered, will there be more sojization?

-D.M .: Without a doubt. Because lowering withholdings is giving you such an exaggerated profit that all businessmen will want to produce more soybeans. In addition, the profit will be so great that the evictions of peasants and indigenous people will multiply.

-R.F .: It is a simple and direct relationship: if retentions go down, the hectares with soybeans increase, land clearings increase, pollution increases and genuine work decreases.

-A.M .: They only care about maximizing their profits. Therefore, they will advance on other crops, which will lead to an increase in food prices, accentuating the food crisis.


-What does it mean to you to listen to the Liaison Board talk about poverty?

-D.M .: Hypocrisy and arrogance. You cannot talk about hunger and in turn throw away milk, shorten the population of food and only think about its great profitability. I insist that you have to go and see how they live, that is where the mask will fall off.

-R.F .: The Mesa de Enlace expresses the selfish ambition of agribusiness, a model that devastated and plundered natural assets, which earned millions of dollars and now want more, at the cost of threatening indigenous peasant life, devastating forests and evicting communities.

-A low profile actor is Uatre. How does this union entity play in the provinces?

-D.M .: Actually the Uatre hardly exists in the field. It has never promoted the organization of rural wage earners and rarely benefits them. His current leadership has betrayed his class in exchange for the enrichment of a few bureaucrats who have negotiated the lives of millions of peons. The current Uatre is the fifth entity of the link table. Nothing that benefits the workers of the field can be expected from that.

The Government has no policy towards the peasantry

-For years you have argued that governments do not bet on peasant agriculture. Affirmation they still hold.

-D.M .: It is difficult to understand the logic of alliances of this Government because it maintains in key positions of the Secretariat of Agriculture and in the Sub-Secretariat of Rural Development and Family Agriculture many cadres of the Agrarian Federation. That fact alone, in itself, is something difficult to understand. And, on the other hand, it has not generated any real space for dialogue with peasant organizations that are really fighting against agribusiness and developing alternatives.

-R.F .: Perhaps the Government does not finish believing in the potential of the peasantry. There may be one of his main weaknesses in this confrontation with the Mesa de Enlace: he does not believe in the peasants and he confronts the businessmen. So who will produce the food? On the other hand, the Government has many allies and officials who are unaware of the sector and only think about how to sustain themselves in their positions.

-Minister Débora Giorgi recently stated that the Undersecretary of Rural Development and Family Agriculture has a budget of 400 million pesos.

-D.M .: We are not aware that such a budget exists. What we do know is that the only thing that moves in the Undersecretariat is the scarce funds of a program called Proinder, which is money from the World Bank. And above all we know that the organized peasant communities do not receive funds and have no place in the Undersecretary.

-RF: The Ministry of Agriculture continues to give millions of pesos in subsidies to the Liaison Board while the Undersecretary has done nothing for the peasant sector, which demands land, demands that the environment be no longer destroyed and demands policies to stop the exodus to the cities. And all this does not depend on withholdings, it depends on real policies that no government promotes.

-A.M .: At least until now the line that predominates there is the one promoted by leaders of the Agrarian Federation who did not want to lose their chances of being in the State and simulate their departure from the Federation, although without taking their feet off the plate.

-It is often said that the Agrarian Federation is in the Undersecretariat, but no one provides specific names

-D.M .: Pedro Cerviño was in the Department of Rural Development of the Agrarian Federation, he left in common agreement with Buzzi during 125 so as not to lose what was built in the Family Agriculture Forum (Fonaf), but when there are conditions they return. It's like Cobos with radicalism. He was the coordinator of the Forum, negotiated with Néstor Kirchner and was in a key directory in the Undersecretary. They say that he maintains an intern with the Undersecretary, Guillermo Martini.

-R.F .: José Catalano, Cheppi's advisor on family farming issues, is also close to the Agrarian Federation lines, he was in the Agricultural Social Program but was left out of the Undersecretariat and is with a grudge. Juan Pablo Iurman is also from the FAA and is within the Government. Diego Rostagno is a delegate of the Undersecretariat in Mendoza and in the federated of pure strain. Today deputy Ulises Forte, who is so democratic, it was he himself who from the Forum tried to silence the dissidents, and then he ended up throwing out critical organizations in 2006, together with Miryam Bruno, today coordinator of the Forum. At present Ulises Forte, national deputy for the UCR, continues to be in tune with many FAA cadres within the Government.

-A.M .: Based on these concrete facts, we believe that the Government has no policy towards the peasantry. It is enough to see the Undersecretariat, only a management space where only a few productive projects are proposed that function as spoils of war.

-The Government exhibits the Family Agriculture Forum (Fonaf) as the official space for farmers.

-D.M .: The Family Agriculture Forum is a construction of the Agrarian Federation to wash your face. At the same time, it is the great "peasant" bet of this government excluding everything else, which is almost like excluding 95 percent of the peasantry. Within the Forum there is little space to fight and claim rights.

-R.F .: The FAA cadres in the Government have shown to control the Undersecretary. From there they try to force peasant organizations to join the Forum, as a requirement to allocate resources. It is a clientelist politics, to legitimize itself with the saddest practices of politics.

-A.M .: They made us present projects and they always turn us around, despite the fact that the amounts are miserable compared to those granted to the agribusinesses of the Liaison Table. Every day the rules change for us and they always want to extort us that we have to join the Forum, which is used to fill partisan acts on behalf of the peasantry.

-The official discourse is that the Forum is made up of 200 peasant organizations. I asked many times for the list of participants, but they never gave it to me.

-D.M .: (Smiling) They will never give it to him. Because the Forum does not have the representation it claims to have. It is enough to visit the provinces, the organizations in struggle, and you will see that the Forum does not represent the peasantry.

-R.F .: We have been working on the construction of a wide space, where most of the peasant organizations that bet on food sovereignty and the fight for land are located. The Forum may be there if you want, but you must accept that it is very unrepresentative by itself, in addition to being a parastatal type structure, since it was created by a resolution of the Ministry of Agriculture, even the secretary himself is the president of the Forum , an incongruity rarely seen.

-A.M .: In no way will we allow an official to set the agenda of legitimate peasant organizations, as is happening today at the Forum. We can sit down to talk, but we do not negotiate rights. All within the framework of a broad call for the sector's struggle, which perhaps was not heard in the urban centers, but was heard in the peasant ranches. That is our strength and our legitimacy.

Handsome models

-What is the agricultural model of the MNCI?

-DM: It is only possible to get out of hunger if the country is committed to food sovereignty, which is the possibility that the country has its own food project, that produces the variety of foods it needs and not that the seed companies and chemicals come to impose what should we produce.

-R.F .: We also have specific bills on indigenous peasant problems, land redistribution based on comprehensive agrarian reform, community production initiatives, local development and social economy, education and health for the sector. We have concrete experiences of renewable technologies, schools of agroecology and healthy food production. But they are proposals not heard by the media and the political class.

-A.M .: One of the clearest points that separates us from the current model is the relationship that the communities have with the territory. For the peasants and indigenous people, the territory, the water, the land, are not a commodity. Politicians, companies and the Justice see it as merchandise and private property, but for us it is a history, a culture, our ancestors. Hence the strong fight for these goods is not something discursive, it has to do with defending a way of life that we feel is our own.

-But the Agrarian Federation, and even the Government, speaks of food sovereignty.

-D.M .: The term food sovereignty was developed and disseminated by Via Campesina, and it ended up being consolidated in the Nyeleni Declaration where many social and political movements from around the world participated, called by Via Campesina, of which we are part. Today it is an honor that many organizations are working on it and spreading it and placing it as a strategic axis. There are many partner organizations, such as the Darío Santillán Front, that have placed it among their demands. But the FAA case is once again hypocritical and treacherous because they take the words and change the content.

-R.F .: Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to produce their food, to be sovereign over their production and consumption of food, respecting their culture and fully satisfying their needs. How do you combine that with a model where more than 80 percent of the land is soybeans? How do you talk about food sovereignty if your problem is how to export soybeans and make huge profits? In Argentina we have lost food sovereignty, and the Liaison Table had a lot to do with that.

-A.M .: Food sovereignty understands that for a people to be sovereign they must be able to make the decisions that affect them, decide together what we need to eat and put the territory based on that. This is pure democracy, and it is possible, we are demonstrating it in the territories. But it has been a long time since the State has made those decisions in favor of the profitability of companies. And profitability only measures how much money I can get out of a place.

-You differentiate between small producers and peasants.

-D.M .: Any small businessman is called a small producer. This definition only talks about the size of your venture and not about its philosophy, logic and culture. The term peasant has a whole historical memory, it is an ancient social class and that has always had the function of producing food respecting nature and providing popular markets.

-RF: Currently there are thousands of peasants who maintain these values ​​and culture, it is not the same as the "small producer" of the Agrarian Federation that produces and exports soybeans, who earns 200 thousand dollars a year and does not live on the land. nor coexists with nature. Despite the repression we suffered, and the denial of a part of the academy, the peasantry resists firmly all over the world. We are part of Via Campesina (an international organization of peasants, rural workers and indigenous people present in 56 countries) and there the role of struggle and resistance of peasant families is clearly seen.

-AM: Unlike much of the media and political leaders, for us the countryside is the land, nature, indigenous peasant families, rural workers, solidarity and work, the struggle that has been going on for more 500 years against the mercantile culture of the land. For us, land and water are not merchandise, they are part of us, they are our life. The earth is the mother that allows us to produce and live with dignity and a mother cannot be sold or used for selfish ends. That is why the land must have a social function, it must be a function of food sovereignty.

Dario Aranda


Video: PRAC Webinar Series: Building Resilient Food Systems across the Prairies (May 2021).