In the wake of President Bush’s visit to Guatemala as part of his 5 nation Latin America tour, the National Labor Committee (NLC, New York) and the Center for Studies and Support for Local Development (CEADEL, Guatemala) just released a joint report “Harvest of Shame” that details the exploitation and human rights violations of children in Guatemala. Focusing on the Kaqchikel Maya in the Department of Chimaltenango it highlights, among other things, how free trade treaties like CAFTA (pushed by the United States and endorsed by the president) have exacerbated an agro-export model in countries like Guatemala–a model of agriculture that benefits agricultural corporations and violates human rights and labor laws, including children’s rights, and that is environmentally unsustainable. Ironically, the report points out that much of the food being processed by Guatemalan children working upto 12 hours a day every day, literally on their feet, ends up in school cafeterias across the United States.
Peasant and indigenous peoples’ organizations in Guatemala, such as the Coordinadora Nacional de Organizaciones Campesinas (CNOC-National Coordination of Peasant Organizations) and its members, including the Coordinadora Nacional Indígena y Campesina (CONIC-National Coordination of Indigenous Peoples and Peasants), the Comité de Unidad Campesina (CUC-Committee for Rural Unity), and the Consejo Nacional Indígena y Campesina (CNAIC-National Consultation of Indigenous Peoples and Peasants or K´utb´alb´ey in Kaqchikel) have a very different vision of agriculture that is grounded in the concept of food sovereignty, and prioritizes human rights, fair prices, and ecological sustainability. A delegate from CUC was one of over 500 people who met at the Nyéléni Food Sovereignty Forum in Mali last month to discuss how farmers, fishers, indigenous peoples and their allies such as environmentalists and consumers could work together in making food sovereignty a reality.