Land has emerged at the center of conflicts worldwide. Dispossession of rural and indigenous populations is one result of what many are calling the “global land grab.”
The crisis of overproduction that came to a head in 2008 has made it difficult for investors globally to continue making profits on producing things. This has led financial-sector elites to shift investments from production in manufacturing increasingly to land, real estate, industrial food production and the control of natural resources. This shift has had repercussions across Latin America, as it has accelerated the direct competition of peasant producers with transnational corporations.
The former, if they lose out, are forced off of their land, into the cities and toward the global north. Global financial capital has become a major absentee landlord throughout Latin America, producing chemical-intensive foods and agrofuels for export. It is no accident that the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) of Brazil, the hemisphere’s largest mass-based social movement organization, has land reform as its fundamental priority. Without land reform, insists the MST, democracy is impossible.
CUSLAR’s research and collaborations on land issues center on the rights of communities to determine their own futures, including control over land, water and resources.
Paraguay: ¿Qué pasó en Curuguaty?
A coalition of organizations called Articulación Curuguaty is mobilizing to resolve cases of land rights and human rights violations in Paraguay, attempting to bring to justice those responsible for the 2012 massacre that took the lives of eleven peasants and six police officers. CUSLAR, too, demands to know What happened in Curuguaty.
Ecuador: Intag Project and DECOIN
CUSLAR partners with the Cornell University-based Intag Project and Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag (DECOIN) of northeast Ecuador in raising questions about potential open pit mining operations in the delicate cloud forest ecosystem.
Paulo Freire Engaged Practitioners Program and Brazil’s Landless Workers
CUSLAR’s Paulo Freire Engaged Practitioners Program was established in September 2013 and periodically hosts human rights leaders from Latin America to broaden understanding and dialogue around pivotal issues. These practitioners share their experiences through lectures and dialogue with students, faculty and community organizations.
CUSLAR’s inaugural Freire Engaged Practitioner was Judite Stronzake of Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement (MST), whose month-long visit in September and October 2013 created space for more than two dozen speaking engagements and dialogues with university and community groups.
CUSLAR is part of a national coalition working to host 20 MST leaders in the United States in 2015 for English study and mutual learning.