May Day, May Day
El FAT esta en su lucha!
(Migrants, hear us!
The FAT is with you in your struggle!)
El FAT esta en su lucha!
(Migrants, hear us!
The FAT is with you in your struggle!)
Reading the international press, it's easy to conclude that Haiti is a hopelessly violent place. The crushing poverty and claims of a "culture of violence" steer Haiti into a spiral from which it cannot escape. Certainly the poverty is a horrible, unfair burden. Is it "crushing"? Crushing implies inaction, certainly not the case in Haiti.
Today, immigrants and their allies will be participating in a national "Day Without Immigrants" to bring attention to the millions of immigrants in the U.S. that support the national economy. They will rally, spend no money and wear white to demonstrate their support of immigrants' rights and discontent with proposed U.S. immigrant legislation.
Even corporate agribusiness is taking notice: Perdue, Gallo Wines, Tyson Foods and Cargill are closing production facilities so that workers can participate in the days' activities.
Why would agribusiness be so supportive? The statistics speak for themselves: Eight-one percent of all U.S. agricultural workers are foreign-born; 77 percent come from Mexico.
Editor's Note: Daniel Moss sent this post from Jacmel, a city south of Port au Prince on the Caribbean coast. They visited the small town of La Fond on 21st, the day of the national parliamentary elections.
Please join me in a jeep bumping over river stones with Vigot, an agronomist from KROS, the Regional Coordination of Southeast Organizations. As part of its Resource Rights Initiative, Grassroots International staff visited this remote area to observe up close the work of Haiti's regional peasant associations.
Haiti, as one person told me, is a country of contrasts. This person also told me to be careful that I present all of Haiti with all of its contrasts.
For example, as we drove up mountain after mountain visiting the Haitian countryside, there were farmers moving around doing the business of daily life. They were tilling fields on the side of a mountain with hoes. Their backs and arms were bent at angles that made them seem more like acrobats and dancers than farmers. There were women and children smiling as they fetched water and carried it in buckets on top of their heads.
Editor's note: Grassroots' staff members Daniel Moss and Azalia Mitchell have traveled to Haiti to visit with our partners and allies and to assess the situation on the ground after this winter's Presidential elections and this week's parliamentary run-offs. Azalia has sent along her first impressions of Haiti (below) and we hope we will hear more from them in the coming days.
In Port au Prince there are obvious signs letting a visitor know that presidential elections were recently held. Hanging from buildings, telephone wires and poles are huge banderoles reading: "Rene Preval: President" and "Everyone in Agreement: Magnigat for President." The Preval banners, as it turns out, proclaim the results of the election, while the Magnigat are reminders of his supporters' disappointment.
On Monday, April 17 movements all over the world kicked off global mobilizations and actions in support of peasants' struggles for land, water and food rights.
The Via Campesina, an international movement of family farmers, landless workers, fisher folk and women's and indigenous' organizations, designated April 17th the International Day of Peasant Struggle to commemorate the 1996 Massacre in Carajas, Brazil. The incident resulted in the murders of 19 members of the Landless Workers' Movement (MST), a member of the Via Campesina and a Grassroots partner.
A recent World Bank report observed that the Palestinian economy was in the throes of "one of the deepest recessions in modern history exceeding the scale of economic losses suffered by the U.S. in the Great Depression, or Argentina during the recent financial collapse." More than one out of three available labor force participants are unemployed. And to keep pace with the expanding available labor force, 30,000 new jobs would have to be created each year. The highest percentage of unemployment is concentrated among youth: 37.2% among 15-19 year olds and 36.3% among 20-24 year olds.
"Farm to Cafeteria" is a wonderful idea being promoted by a large number of organizations representing family farmers, farm workers, children's and youth advocates, environmental, health and hunger activists, organic consumers, faith-based groups and others, including Grassroots International, the National Family Farm Coalition, the Rural Coalition, the Organic Consumers Association and the Community Food Security Coalition.
March 28th, 2006 —On March 8th, International Women's Day, a group of more than 1,200 women from the Via Campesina took action to denounce the environmental and social injustice committed by corporations and a global agrarian policy that puts the needs of the market ahead of the needs of people. These corporations use vast tracts of land in Brazil for plantations of eucalyptus and pine to produce paper and lumber for export. The Movement of Women Peasants in Brazil points out that this monoculture creates "green deserts" that actually increase poverty instead of reducing it. As the members of the women's movement say, "We want land to grow food. We don't eat eucalyptus."
[Editor's note: Nikhil Aziz and Jennifer Lemire have been in Palestine for the last week. We are very excited to bring you their reports from the Occupied Territories.]
For Palestinians living under Israeli Occupation, each day is an act of resistance. Each day that Palestinian men, women and children stand in line at the Qalandia Checkpoint waiting for Israeli permission to pass, each day that Wafa has to remind her daughter to conserve water because there might not be enough to last the week, each day that Ya'cub passes buildings in Jerusalem that before 1948 used to belong to his family, each day that Khaled works with farmers in Hebron to build cisterns to collect precious rainwater, each day that Jamal meets with families struggling to stay on their land in Salfit as the Separation Wall casts shadows on their homes, each day that Hasan helps organize Palestinian laborers working in the informal sector of the economy, each day that Samia walks to the fields just outsider her village to harvest zataar and lettuce from her garden. Each of these small acts is one of quiet resistance.
"Dead people live here" said my niece Anisha matter of factly, as only a 6-7 year old would, while we drove by a cemetery near her home in Erie, Pennsylvania some years ago.
And on my first full day in Jerusalem Anisha's voice rang in my ears. That innocent remark carries a lot more weight here in Jerusalem.
Grassroots International wishes you a happy International Women's Day!
I want to share with you a declaration from women from the Via Campesina in Brazil. The women are in Porto Alegre, Brazil during the Second World Conference of Agrarian Reform and Rural Development — the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN. They have set up a parallel forum entitled, "Land, Territory and Dignity". They set out on a march early this morning to shout out their vision of equal land and water rights for all. It's a very hopeful vision, especially for the multitudes of women around the world denied access to these precious, life-giving resources.
Free coffee and chocolate while being entertained and informed...all during a late lunch hour! Who could ask for anything more? I'll be away or else I'd be there.
This week, Grassroots is participating in a series of events that we helped the National Family Farm Coalition organize in Washington, D.C..
I was in D.C. on Monday for an exciting public forum (you can see a PDF of the program here), hosted by the NFFC and featuring speakers from many other members of the Via Capesina, including Pedro Christoffoli, a representative of Grassroots' partner, the MST.
Leaders of the movement of family farmers and farm workers from all over the United States met with leaders of farmer and peasant movements from Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Mali to talk about the right of people everywhere to have enough food, to be able to choose how and where that food is produced and to have a dignified livelihood.
Jose Bove, who spoke here at Grassroots International about the campaign to protect the European food system and environment from the dangers of genetically modified crops, has been denied entry to the United States as he was en route to speak at a meeting with farmers, labor activists, students and others in Ithaca, New York.
Immigration authorities accused Bove of lying on his entry form about a history of prosecution for "moral crimes." Bove admitted he had been jailed in France for "political crimes," including protests against Monsanto and McDonald's.
Grassroots International applauds the relatively peaceful manner in which Haiti's elections were carried out on February 7th. The long lines of people, determined to vote, who waited more than eight hours for their turn at the polls are a sign of the hunger of Haitians for meaningful democratic participation. We believe that the elections in Haiti as an important step on the road to democracy and one of the only ways for Haiti to move forward out of the current political impasse.
We are pleased to present to our readers this report prepared by the electoral observers from the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH) in Haiti (a member of Grassroots partner, POHDH–Haitian Human Rights Platform) summarizing their first hand observations with regard to yesterday's elections.
On January 25, 2006, Palestinians went to the polls to elect members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. This was only the second parliamentary election since 1996 and despite obstacles and barriers created by the ongoing Israeli occupation, the elections were, by most accounts, free and fair with approximately 76% of eligible voters participating.
The final results of the Palestinian legislative elections show a resounding victory for Hamas, which won 74 out of the 132 seats, giving them a clear majority. Fatah won 45 seats and independent candidates took 13 seats.
Much has been made of these results and Hamas' watershed victory certainly opens a new chapter in the history of the Palestinian Authority (PA). However, we should be careful to see these results for what they are. They are not a broad mandate for Hamas positions.