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In Sololá, hundreds of campesinos mobilized to oppose the “Monsanto Law,” which would have opened Guatemala to the privatization of seed. (Photo: Jeff Abbott)
Late in the afternoon of September 4, after nearly 10 days of protests by a coalition of labor, indigenous rights groups and farmers, the indigenous peoples and
campesinos of Guatemala won a rare victory. Under the pressure of massive mobilizations, the Guatemala legislature repealed Decree 19-2014, commonly referred to as the “Monsanto Law,” which would have given the transnational chemical and seed producer a foot hold into the country’s seed market.
“The law would have affected all indigenous people of Guatemala,” said Edgar René Cojtín Acetún of the indigenous municipality of the department of Sololá. “The law would have privatized the seed to benefit only the multinational corporations. If we didn’t do anything now, then our children and grandchildren would suffer the consequences.”
Originally passed on June 26, the Monsanto Law was written to protect the intellectual property rights of multinational companies in their investments within Guatemala. The law also allowed Monsanto an entrance into the Guatemalan seed market and set in place stiff penalties for any farmer that was caught selling seed to another farmer without the proper permits. The response was a massive mobilization of a coalition of labor, indigenous groups and
For 10 days, the streets in front of the legislature of the capital Guatemala City were clogged with thousands of protesters demanding the repeal of the law. Demonstrators also gathered in the rural departments of Guatemala to protest the law and the congressmen who had voted in favor of the law.
The changes to the seed market would have heavily hit the
campesinos of the department of Sololá, which is a major production area for seed corn for the rest of the country. On September 2, 25,000 to 30,000 people from the around the communities of the department of Sololá shut down the Inter-American Highway in protest of the Monsanto Law. Protesters set up blockades along the highway in three places and shut down all traffic for nearly nine hours.
“The communities are organized against any law that privatizes their seed,” said Griselda Pocop of the Association of Women Moving Sololá. “They are also demanding the respect of the traditions and of their livelihoods.”