Last month, WhyHunger interviewed Kevin Rangel from the National Peasant Front Ezequiel Zamora, member of our ally global movement La Via Campesina International. The National Peasant Front is a social movement dedicated to advancing the rights of peasant communities through food sovereignty. With the legislative approval of a seed sovereignty law, the National Peasant Front and other grassroots groups in Venezuela are dedicating their energy to protecting and disseminating the use of local seeds among rural families, using agroecological practices. For them, local seeds and agroecology are integral to building a nation without hunger and exploitation and a way to raise awareness among Venezuelans about their role in building a more just world.
The Q&A with Kevin below offers a perspective from a farmer and organizer in Venezuela which differs in many ways from the news reports by the mainstream media. Kevin challenges the image of a nation in disarray and denounces the problems of food scarcity and forced migration as part of a plan to destabilize his country fueled by U.S. sanctions and other tactics by Right-wing groups inside of Venezuela and their international allies.
Regardless of one’s opinion of the current Venezuelan government, we can agree that the escalation of violence, hunger and forced displacement of innocent people for political gain should be strongly condemned. WhyHunger stands in solidarity with peasants, small farmers, fisher folk, and Indigenous peoples who peacefully struggle to secure the rights of all peoples to food, land, water and livelihoods in Venezuela and around the world.
Editor’s Note: The below interview represents the opinions and perspective of a farmer and organizer working and living in Venezuela, rooted in his experiences. WhyHunger is committed to amplifying the voices of those working on the frontline for food justice and social justice.
Q. How do you and others from The National Peasant Front see the current situation of the country?
A. The National Peasant Front Ezequiel Zamora (FNCEZ) is part of the revolutionary sector Bolivar and Zamora, which is an organization that brings together various grassroots organizations. First of all, let’s situate ourselves in the moment that the Bolivarian Revolution  has found itself. We have entered into a new phase of aggression against the Bolivarian Revolution — a plan that has been in development for years, with different stages and different phases, after the death and the physical disappearance of President [Hugo] Chávez. The Venezuelan Right and the U.S. have been developing different plans of aggression against our sovereignty and against the tranquility and stability of the country, both politically and economically. This plan, or this phase of the plan – often called the “Final Operation,” seeks to overthrow the legitimate constitutional president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro, and beyond that, the Bolivarian Revolution. The plan highlights U.S. imperialism and the role of the Trump Administration in directly and openly giving guidelines to the Venezuelan Right to develop a plan that seeks to provoke a war-like situation in Venezuela. We can say that at this moment the role played by the media and the big international news agencies has been dedicated to building an opinion matrix in Latin America and around the world that in Venezuela there is a vacuum of power.
The Right has always had a stake in or has bet on the destabilizing agenda. Remember that in 2017, the Venezuelan Right turned to the streets with great violence and there was a long list of people affected and killed; national guards were killed, police were killed, Chavistas were killed and people were burned alive. These very violent actions denote the characteristic of the Venezuelan Right, of the counterrevolution and its fascist character, of its violent nature. Today they intend to carry out these actions to politically destabilize the country in an attempt to put the region under the control of North America. Behind this plan is the desire to control the natural resources of our country, such as oil, gold, water resources and other minerals that Venezuela counts on [for economic security].
For twenty years the Bolivarian Revolution has existed in Venezuela. And it has been a transformational historical process that has managed to return the politics and the participation to the protagonism of the people to construct a political model that surpasses the representative democracy with which the Right ruled and with which imperialism plundered the wealth of Venezuela for more than forty years.
The U.S. has devoted itself during the last five years to directly sabotaging the Venezuelan economy. It has been dedicated to sanctioning and to blocking economic financial activities. This has generated a huge economic crisis in the beginning with the actions that were initiated by former President Barack Obama when he declared Venezuela a threat to the national security of the United States. It is important that the people around the world, and mainly the people of the United States, understand that what is happening in Venezuela, including the crisis that the media speaks about and that Mike Pompeo suggested to the UN Security Council is an exodus and migration of Venezuelans to other countries, has to do precisely with the U.S.-led blockade and economic sanctions which is preventing our country from being allowed to develop in peace and tranquility as we had during the previous fifteen years.
Our goal is to develop the nation’s agricultural sector, strengthening the productive apparatus of the country including the production of food which is where the peasants in Venezuela have managed the greatest wins. The Bolivarian Revolution gave the Venezuelan peasants a leading, participatory and active role and these gains have been affected by the sanctions, this sabotaging of our economy. More than 350 million dollars in the production of goods and services, as well as food and other items that are necessary for the development of the country, have been affected.
North American governments have been working on a plan to turn Latin America into its backyard. It is this aggressive plan that seeks to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro and beyond that the Bolivarian Revolution. But beyond the Bolivarian Revolution and overthrowing the president, they want to take control of the economic resources of Venezuela — oil, gold, coltan and the different energy resources that Venezuela has, in addition to one of the main water reserves of the continent.
Q. How does the situation (or a possible coup) impact the struggles for food sovereignty in Venezuela?
A. The coup impacts the fight for food sovereignty and the reactivation of agricultural production to guarantee food in our land. Currently, what runs the risk of being affected by the coup d’état are all the gains and wins that Venezuelan peasants have made; all the projects that we have been developing for twenty years to lift ourselves up and create a productive culture. Remember that, for forty years, Venezuela was turned into an importer of food and was dependent on oil production [for its economic security].
For more than forty years, Venezuela’s economy was heavily reliant on agricultural imports, despite being one of the countries with large tracts of good land for [agricultural] production. But the land was in the hands of latifundios(large estate owners) who were displacing the peasants to the big cities to work in the oil industry. In this sense, the coup d’état not only affects the struggle for food sovereignty but also affects the integral struggles of the Bolivarian Revolution.
Although the Bolivarian Revolution is a project that aims to transform the Venezuelan reality and turn Venezuela into an economic power, part of the plans we have been developing these last twenty years is how to dismantle the dependence on food imports and to work on building food sovereignty. There are many wins we as peasants have had during these twenty years. We have a land law that has democratized the land for the peasants. We have built important mechanisms and tools to support the production of peasants, small and medium producers. We are at a time when we must defend these gains.
With the Bolivarian Revolution, peasants have obtained great wins. Nowadays, the revolution has a legislative, political, and legal framework that aims to build the country’s food sovereignty. We have agrarian land reform, seeds law securing the production of our native seeds and prohibiting transgenic seeds in the country, the construction of a new national agricultural production system that prioritizes family farming and peasant agriculture. All of this to say, that all those wins and the possibility that Venezuela will achieve food sovereignty would be affected by the imperialist plans that intend to open the doors to the big transnationals, which the Bolivarian Revolution had already gotten rid of in Venezuela.
Q. What is your message to the people living outside of Venezuela?
A final message: solidarity with Venezuela is important! Latin American unity and anti-imperialist unity are very much appreciated, including expressions of solidarity and concrete actions to reject military action from those living within countries of imperialist governments who are fighting against Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela in order to “liberate” this part of the hemisphere from socialism.
A clear message of solidarity to stand against that which threatens all alternatives and for the peoples of the world that think differently and seek to build alternatives, to build socialism. Before the madness of war that this gentleman [Trump] tries to incite by imposition of his ideology, we need to lift up the articulation, the unity, the activation of the people and mobilize in defense of peace. It is necessary to build many agendas for mobilization and unite our struggles to guarantee the future of the planet.
 The Bolivarian Revolution is a political process in Venezuela that was led by Venezuelan President Victor Hugo Chavez. The Bolivarian Revolution is named after Simón Bolívar, an early 19th-century Venezuelan and Latin American revolutionary leader, known for his leadership in securing the independence of most of northern South America from Spanish rule. The Bolivarian Revolution seeks to build an inter-American coalition in order to implement political and economic sovereignty and struggle against the injustices of imperialism, inequality and corruption.