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With a population of over 8 million people, the autonomous community of Andalucia is one of the regions most seriously affected by the European crisis. Its unemployment rate has reached 36%, in some areas it is as high as 44%. 60% of the young population are unemployed. “In view of this reality you have to fight or die”, said Mari Carmen of the Trade Union of Countryside Workers (SOC, Via Campesina) in her presentation on food at the International Seminar “Food, Water and Energy are not Commodities”, held in Bilbao, Basque Country, from October 29 to 31.
Land concentration has been a historical problem in Andalucia. Currently 2% of owners have 50% of the productive land and the crisis has only worsened this situation. An example mentioned by Mari Carmen was the situation of fiscal lands of the local government, Andalucia’s Town Hall or Junta de Andalucia.
The ‘Junta’ has nearly 20,000 hectares of land that are being cultivated by small farmers. Mari Carmen said that, using the crisis as an excuse, the Andalucian government decided by a decree issued in 2010, to sell the lands “to the best bidder”. SOC’s immediate reaction was to occupy the lands to denounce what would be a tool to further increase land concentration.
The rural worker explained how this happened: “The first auction was cancelled, at the second one the price was lowered, but speculators kept with their strategy of not bidding, so the third time the price was even lower. In this way, speculators who have led to this crisis end up grabbing lands”.
“It is always the same ones who have to make sacrifices”
Besides land occupation, the rural workers of Andalucia have been taken other actions to defend their basic rights. In mid 2012, the Andalucian trade unions carried out a forced expropriation in Carrefour and Mercadona supermarkets, by taking the food and giving them to soup kitchens.
“We did this not only to denounce the hunger people are suffering, but also to say: ‘these are the responsible for the crisis, they are the ones stealing from the people’”, explained Mari Carmen. She mentioned some of the things they accused these big supermarket chains of: imposing prices on small farmers and peasants, phasing off small business in the autonomous community, violating labor rights and appropriating funding that should be used for small-scale food production.
An example of the latter is how corporations have been the beneficiaries of the European Union Common Agrarian Policy, which became a public policy tool that channels “aid” to those who need it the least.
Considering these scenario, plus the crackdown on protests, the Andalucian activist concluded: “Our struggles are fair and legitimate because if we remain silent while we watch the big fish get bigger and the small ones get smaller, we will have no future”.
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