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Rural Workers in Uruguay occupy land and call for solidarity

by Comisión de apoyo Saturday, Mar. 03, 2007 at 7:16 PM

On January 14 of this year, Mandiyú – a group of small dairy farmers – occupied a 388 hectare section of the Eduardo Acevedo Estate in the area of Bella Unión, in the north of Uruguay. This is the second land occupation in the country, following the group of “peludos” (sugar cane workers) in their occupation one year ago of another 32 hectares that had been abandoned for more than ten years.

The area of Bella Union, situated in the state of Artigas, is one of the poorest zones in Uruguay. Bordering Brazil, the region is known for its extensive cattle farming and agriculture. Employment is scarce and what work one can find is generally poorly paid. At the same time, in the past the region used to attract many people who came to make a living working as a “peludo,” as the sugar cane workers are called.

Uruguay has not escaped the Latin American reality of terribly unequal land distribution, and the eternal promise of land reform has not been fulfilled. 75% of the land is part of properties pertaining to less than 8,000 people and companies. The National Colonization Institute (the land management wing of the national government with the Spanish acronym “INC”) manages some 500,000 hectares, which is only 3% of the country’s land.

For over a year the INC has allowed the Mandiyú group to use their property for cow pasture, and while they were paying rent the situation was unstable, with no legal security.

In December of 2006 the last contract expired, leaving the small dairy farmers abandoned and waiting for, at any moment, an order to evict them and their cows off the land. They also found out about a deal in the same state where 600 hectares had been given over to a wealthy person who did not need the help of the INC.

Today, once again, the rural workers and small farmers are looking for local support and international solidarity to stop the eviction, since the decision to occupy the land is not just the result of a political stance or ideology, but is also based on the basic needs of the feeding of their families and the carrying out of dignified and self-determined lives. As their first communiqué sated, “We do not ask for favors, we demand the respect of our right to work.” They are making “this last and almost desperate attempt to continue living from the land and in the countryside.”

Both occupations have received the support of several organization and collectives, such as the Landless Workers Movement – MST – from Brazil, and the MOCASE from the area of Santiago del Estero, Argentina. Brazilian compañeros have already visited the first occupation, exchanged experiences and brought seeds. On January 22nd, during the seventh World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, organizations such as Via Campesina and Friends of the Earth expressed their solidarity with the land occupation movements in Uruguay.

While the government promotes itself with the slogan “For a productive country with Social Justice,” the workers are the ones really putting this in practice. They are defending their right to work and to a dignified life to not end up like so many Uruguayans in the settlements and slums in the outskirts of the capital. The occupants are tired of the unfulfilled promises for land reform, for a fair distribution of land, and this is why they have decided to take it into their own hands and use the legitimate right to be able to live on the land upon which they work.

Website of the Solidarity CallMore information in spanish:

For donations and contact

Both occupations have bank accounts where they can receive donations:

Colonia España
Banco de la República Oriental del Uruguay,
Caja de Ahorro 3/3301-5
Para hacerlo desde el Exterior:
Swift code: BROUUYMM
Telefono: (598) 099083786

Grupo Mandiyú
Banco de la República Oriental del Uruguay
Cuenta Nº 3 39385 (Caja de ahorros)
Titulares: Sandro Thedy, Saúl Lagrega, Ramón Sosa
Swift code: BROUUYMM
5989 9947323 (Mario Thedy)
5989 951469

Call to send letter to the authorities:

To support the struggle, you can send letters to the Uruguayan authorities. Web form for send the letter

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