Groups of farmers blocked roads Wednesday, Sept. 17 to demand that Congress repeal of several laws, including the Telecommunications Act and the Law on Free Movement of Obstacles. The Law on Free Movement of Obstacles bans the use of speed bumps (tumulos) across public roads. The protesters want to have their speed bumps returned.
GUATEMALA CITY - Authorities say blockages occur in the 256 km route to Coban and Senahú Chisec, Alta Verapaz; Zunil 180 km, and the path to Colomba, Quetzaltenango; Conception Chiquirichapa 215 km; San Juan Ostuncalco; Guacalate bridge Mazatenango, Suchitepéquez; Coca and Moyuta, Jutiapa.
There are also locks on the road 247 km to the southwest, Cruising The Virgin Pajapita, San Marcos, 154 km route between the head of Jalapa and Nuns, the 210 route between Camotán and the head of Chiquimula.
Farmers are also protesting on the miles of Route 207 between Sacapaulas and Nebaj, Quiché, in the Interemericana 266, Huehuetenango route 132 and route to the Verapaz, in San Jerónimo, Baja Verapaz. Vehicles traveling from Lake Atitlan Guatemala today did not seem affected by the protests.
Travelers and drivers face protesters
In blocking kilometer 190 of the Inter-American route, San Francisco El Alto, Totonicapan, a group of vendors faced stones at the protesters, who were evicted. Also several buses were stoned to prevent people from reaching their destination.
In the city of Chimaltenango, hundreds of people staged a walk in order to be repealed those laws; while people prevent vehicular passage on the route between Nueva Santa Rosa and Barberena, Santa Rosa. The demonstration was called by the Committee for Campesino Unity (CUC), and are expected to be blocked at least 40 points in the country. Daniel Pascual, leader of CUC mentioned yesterday that the blocks are to lobby Congress to repeal the Telecommunications Law and the Law on Free Movement of Obstacles.
The peasant leader said that the repeal of the Monsanto Act showed that other laws may be repealed, when the people are united by a single cause.
The two day protest will involve organizations that lobbied for the repeal of the Law on Protection for New Varieties of Plants was finally repealed by the pressure of the protesters. It is expected that more than 10,000 people will participate in demonstrations both in the province and in the capital. Specific points where blocks will occur will be announced as people congregate in places.
Pascual also indicated that they want total rejection of packages of legislation Investment and Employment, Law of Way Force, amendments to the Mining Act and the attempt to regulate the queries through a protocol.
Guatemala defies ‘Monsanto Law’ pushed by US as part of trade agreement
The highest court in Guatemala has suspended the controversial ‘Monsanto Law,’ a provision of a US-Central American trade agreement, that would insulate transnational seed corporations considered to have “discovered” new plant varieties.
The Constitutional Court suspended on Friday the law – passed in June and due to go into effect on Sept. 26 – after a writ of amparo was filed by the Guatemalan Union, Indigenous and Peasant Movement, which argued the law would harm the nation, LaVoz reported.
The Court’s decision came after several Guatemalan parliamentarians from both the governing Patriotic Party and the opposition party Renewed Democratic Freedom said they would consider repealing the law after outcry from a diverse cross-section of Guatemalans.
The decision also offers interested parties 15 days to present their arguments pertaining to the law in front of the Constitutional Court. Members of both political parties said they would present motions to resist the law.
The ‘Law for the Protection of New Plant Varieties,’ dubbed the ‘Monsanto Law’ by critics for its formidable seed-privatization provisions, is an obligation for all nations that signed the 2005 CAFTA-DR free trade agreement between Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and the United States. The agreement requires signatories to adhere to the International Convention for the Protection of New Plant Varieties.
The law offers producers of transgenic seeds, often corporate behemoths like Monsanto, strict property rights in the event of possession or exchange of original or harvested seeds of protected varieties without the breeder’s authorization. A breeder’s right extends to “varieties essentially derived from the protected variety,” thus, a hybrid of a protected and unprotected seed belongs to the protected seed’s producer.
The Rural Studies Collective (Cer-Ixim) warned that the law would monopolize agriculture processes, severely threaten food sovereignty – especially those of indigenous peoples – and would sacrifice national biodiversity “under the control of domestic and foreign companies.”
The National Alliance for Biodiversity Protection said in July that the law is unconstitutional “because it violates the rights of peoples. It will benefit transnational seed companies such as Monsanto, Duwest, Dupont, Syngenta, etc.”
“According to this law, the rights of plant breeders are superior to the rights of peoples to freely use seeds,” the Alliance said in a statement.
“It’s a direct attack on the traditional knowledge, biodiversity, life, culture, rural economy and worldview of Peoples, and food sovereignty,” the Alliance added.
Anyone who violates the law, wittingly or not, could face a prison term of one to four years, and fines of US$130 to $1,300.
It is unclear what options the Guatemalan government has given the obligations under CAFTA-DR. The US would likely put pressure on the nation to pass the law, part of a global effort using trade agreements to push further corporate control over trade sectors like agriculture in the name of modernization. Upon further refusal, the US could drop Guatemala from the trade agreement.