The Seeds of Life: Exclusive Interview

The Seeds of Life: Exclusive Interview

Interview by Chiefs Amalicha and Mase


Good morning and land back (which is our battle cry), my name is Amalicha Chibacaiketa, representing my nation Venezuela. My pronouns are she/her. In Black Hammer, I’m the Chief of Agitation, leading the Social Media Department, Black Hammer Times news department, and Visual Propaganda Department. I’m very honored to meet you Mr. Alayo.

Land Back, My name is Chief Mase. I represent the colonized people of Mexiko, use he/they pronouns, and serve as the Editor-in-Chief of the baddest anti-colonial news source in the world, and Today Black Hammer Times is bringing you an exclusive interview w Andres Alayo of Fundacion Tierra Vermelha, a food sovereignty organization in Pachamama. He also serves as Director of National and International Relations from Plataforma de Lucha Campesina.

1. Introduce yourself to the poor and working-class Colonized people of the world and tell them about what the mission of Tierra Vermelha is.

Andres: Greetings to Black Hammer, your organization, and salutes. I understand that you are working against all kinds of colonial power in defense of peoples, the working class, discriminated peoples, African and indigenous peoples, good for the poor peoples of the world. We have a slogan that is similar in reality, it is a slogan of the old Uruguayan guerrilla tupamaros of the years 60, the Uruguayan cane producers who fought for our peoples. Historically oppressed peoples have struggled for years using tools for their organization, their conscience, to fight for their cause, a just cause, and that struggle which is ours, that struggle is what enables us to build hope. In the peasant method, we say globalize the struggle, globalize hope because we are building the people, the working class, the peasant class of the world. We will always be in brotherhood. We are grateful to you for this interview.

Pachamama peasants showing unity
Pachamama peasants showing unity

2. Food sovereignty is an essential part of Colonized people having dictatorship over our land. Can you discuss how Fundacion Tierra Vermelha is making this a reality for the poor and working-class people of Brasil, Venezuela, Peru, and Bolivia?

Andres: Seeds! With them, free from patents, we can control our own food sovereignty. Look, we are part of a more global movement of peasants. The way of peasantry is a movement that is more than 20 years old and in Latin America…there has been a return to the countryside, and well one the central axes for all these existing organizations in the field is the topic of food sovereignty. FAO, the UN Global Foundation for Food, always talks about food security. We always talk about food sovereignty. Food sovereignty implies the right of peoples to build their genetic sovereignty: their seeds, filling their stomachs must be multiplied because we say to feed our peoples, to get them out of starvation, the fundamental thing is to have sovereignty and sovereignty implies seeds without patents, free from corporate visions of the food that favors patents, it favors monopolies and it favors above all a food model that destroys the human being. The cultural model based on agrochemicals and monocultures: we are against that model. We believe that we are a model of peasant farming with polyculture, with a diversity of culture, respect for the environment, protecting the watersheds, and above all, getting healthy food to feed the people.

In the year 1999, President Chávez wins. There is a change during the time, a change of historical cycle in the continent in the 1990s… the continent was advancing on the neoliberal models, of the neoliberal governments across the Americas. Then there was the struggle for the water of our comrades, war on the water in Cochabamba so the people began rising up. Neoliberal models existed during the 1990s where there was war in Colombia, the war in Peru, repression in Bolivia, and they sold free trade alliance of the Americas. Chávez’s triumph means the historical possibility of change… and with that obviously gives a boost to all the popular struggles on the continent.

After the triumph, and you know that it was with us, we remember well a summit meeting of the Americas where Chavez was alone and Fidel was the ugly, both the ugly ducklings, but there were geopolitical changes and the creation of a multipolar world not just the existence of an imperial pole. Lula wins in Brazil, the comrades in Argentina win, then Correa. Then there begins to be a turn, a turn in the continent, and the Bolivarian alternative for the peoples, the dawn, comes as opposed to the neoliberal… It is a project that is more than hope, but to try to build continental unity on the basis of other criteria that are not focused on mercantilism, but rather that of solidarity, mutual support… in reality these are values that have historically been present in the people.

For the poor people, everything was changing and in Venezuela, in 2001, the Land Law was decreed by the state. It begins to sign over popular sovereignty and [the government] begins to distribute land to the peasants but paradoxically when they begin to surrender the lands, the assassinations of the peasant leaders arise. Why? Because the landowners refused to give up the land, they resisted and hired paramilitaries and other military personnel to assassinate peasants. We can say today that more than 370 peasants have been killed in our years of struggle for land. 370 peasants killed and the rest of the people imprisoned.

[On] April 17, the world celebrated the International Day of Peasant Struggle in honor of the massacre of 17 project and land partners in Brazil. In 1996, 17 of our comrades were killed there. Repression, and well not only in Brazil, but worldwide, hundreds, thousands of peasants in the struggle for the land have fallen. So on April 17 every year we celebrate the day of the peasant struggle worldwide…Unity across the continent drove the Bolivarian revolution. President Chávez amplified unity, and I believe the legacy of Chávez is bringing people closer…that we as a people claim our unity. Long live Chávez!

3. Being an Organization based in Venezuela, sanctions from the colony are ever-present in attempts to put strain on the Bolivarian people and government. How do these sanctions from the empire directly affect your work with food sovereignty within Venezuela?

Andres: Look, look at that topic in Venezuela for example. Venezuela is a country that historically lived from pig farming. What is good pig farming? Almost 90% of food was imported completely, and here you have more than 40 million productive fertile hectares, but of course because the income was oil, petrodollars, the class, the ruling elites, never worried about boosting agriculture then. That is why we have thousands of peasants migrated to the cities and it was not profitable to work the field….

What about the Bolivarian process? That begins to change a lot. There is a rebirth. The agricultural issue, the productive theme and even the city begins or a crisis with the blockade that Venezuela, many people begin to leave the city. Many poor people return to their countryside and again begin to return to peasant farming. There existed difficulties and constraints with everything but peasant agriculture is reborn in the midst of the imperial blockade or by means of imperial blockade then our central theme is a line we work. We rescued and completed the multiplication of Creole seeds, indigenous seeds, African seeds, and continue to multiply them, and build communal peasant seed banks in all the territories. It is the only way to resist. In the March of 2018, the peasant march, others said to resist no people who produce, no army will fight with empty stomachs. Our people are going to resist the imperial offensive only if we are able to produce other food and that means sovereignty.

A staple in food for these Indigenous farmers, corn
A staple in food for these Indigenous farmers, corn

Look sanctions are directly affecting production, directly. Here we are entering the rainy period which is the planting period. Planting for Venezuela begins in May. Everyone sows seeds in May this year. All peasants, all producers, small, medium, large. We do not know if we are going to plant because the blockade and sanctions are preventing oil from reaching Venezuela, and now without the gasoline we don’t know. They are doing the same with the diesel, which means then no tractor, no machinery will be able to work to prepare the land, no transport of cargo, no trucks, no big trucks that move with diesel. Then the peasants, the producers are unable to take their production to market to local and regional or national markets…

There is a popular hunger rebellion against the government, because what the empire is doing is criminal. It is criminal, genocidal because it affects the poorest people directly. The rich in Venezuela can buy their salt… which is your imported European products… that I know. All are imported products…people buy dollars in foreign exchange but the poor people can’t. You have no currencies. Your salary isn’t enough. Then the rich can survive in this blockade, they can survive… there is an economy that they will not stop and the sanctions are directly hitting our peoples.

4. Now in Brasil, though the issue isn’t sanctions from the colony it still stems from colonialism in the form of a neo-colonial puppet in Bolsonaro and his sellout regime. Can you tell us some of the differences in organizing in Brasil compared to Venezuela?

Andres: Unfortunately after Chávez’s death, there was an imperial offensive to change popular governments on the continent… the empire implemented itself in different parts of the world, changing the legal strategies of governments on the continent that were once not subject to the empire and began to do it first with Lula. Sorry, before Lula with Zelaya in Honduras, a coup d’etat backed by the [united snakkkes]. Then in Paraguay, then from there, they begin to attack directly by judicial means, judicializing. The governments judicialized Dilma and weakened her, removed her and then criminalized her and removed her from the  presidency. The laws were not necessarily used, they used the fiscal judges to prosecute. The political struggle is tied with the peasant struggle. Bolsonaro is a neo-fascist conservative running on Evangelicalism. He is privatizing almost all public enterprises in Brazil. What the Lula government did is to try to build a more or less sovereign model based on the management of its natural resources. Bolsonaro is privatizing everything, even the airports are being privatized, handing over the big capital to the government…all the popular peasant movements were criminalized. For example, Brazil’s Sin Tierra movement was basically outlawed.

Indigenous farmers hard at work
Indigenous farmers hard at work

Much of the experience of producing land cooperatives has been the subject of judicial attacks. For example, our comrades are a part of the small farmers’ movement in Brazil. There are comrades that are imprisoned due to the judicialization of the struggle. Then we see this as the advance of this neoliberal, neo-conservative restorative offensive on the continent promoted by Americans. In Peru, for example, everything was 90% privatized and the criminalization of our people rose. In Bolivia, our comrades were patient. They recovered well [but] 30 were dead or killed, due to the massacre by the dictatorship of Anez, you understand me. And there is still a fascist conspiracy by these fascists in Santa Cruz to try to build a common autonomous space led by fascism, to divide Bolivia, to fence the Bolivian territory. 

Then in Ecuador the comrades there are indigenous, poor workers struggling. Unfortunately, an indigenous companion like Yaku Perez ended up favoring neoliberal bankers. 

Then I believe that all over the continent and again popular struggles are rising I would say that peoples in Latin America are struggling to renew popular governments but, above all, people build their own on the continent and it is happening in different parts of the world. I believe that they are no longer just blocks of different powers, but peoples who are united in struggle and setting their own paths according to what is happening. 

Then Brazil graces the struggle of the comrades that have managed to get Lula to regain all his rights. Lula who is enabled a few days ago was enabled so that he can be a candidate. Dilma Rousseff also closed all charges against that. I believe that here on in Brazil a new compass opens up, a new scenario opens up, and there are many possibilities of what a wider popular alliance and can even resume the government in Brazil and can even retake the government in Brazil and that the struggle of the popular Afro-descendant, indigenous and peasants in Brazil can re-govern popularly.

5. Similar to revolution, food sovereignty is only achievable through the power of the poor and working-class Colonized people. How is Tierra Vermelha meeting the masses where they are and giving them the tools and education they need to achieve this mission? 

Andres: The people are central to building popular power and obviously the organization is based on struggle, on the basis of work, on the basis of training, on the development of consciousness. In this process of struggle, the organization is being built, but that productive development can no longer speak of food sovereignty in the abstract, it has to be concrete. You arrive in the material work of production and in production is that it is realized and tests solidity…

We at the national level we press for the struggle for the land, the struggle for the territories, the struggle to build an autonomous revolutionary popular organization, autonomous government or independence of politics and class but above all, that struggle is aimed at building communes. It is built with communes and the communes are the instances created by the revolution, created by the people where poor peasant workers of the countryside and the city are grouped around the territory and in that territory is organized from the commune is the instance of self-governance… the communes are… unitary… in Venezuela. There is, shoot, a crisis, a recess but at this moment I think there is new and heightened morale… and that federation of communes are rising above…they are the new popular state, the state we want to build to overcome the capitalist state.

Then we have two states in Venezuela, a communal state and a bourgeois state that comes to die but as Gramsci would always say, in time of crises the ears of the new are looming and the ears of the new in this case are the communes.

6. At Black Hammer Times we love to highlight the power of our people. Tell the Colonized Masses of the world a few of Tierra Vermelha’s victories!

Andres: If you look at us we’ve gone many years fighting for the land, fighting for the territories. In those years of struggle we were few, today we are hundreds and perhaps thousands but what has kept us in these years of struggle what, has kept us united, increased affection and  consciousness…mysticism, the mysticism of the other comrades who work day by day. The organization keeps us united, so we, for example, began to discuss the seed law. We made an effort to search for a seed of indigenous maize… the indigenous people inhabit the plains of Anzoategui and Monagas. We brought a seed called Guanape, [seeds of] robust indigenous corn that has survived thousands of years here in Venezuela and we sow it and that seed is now spread throughout the country. That is an achievement. We believe that it is an achievement for the peasant struggle, for our peoples to rescue, to multiply the indigenous Guanape maize.

Another great achievement that [we have] in this struggle is that the year 2018 had hundreds of evictions of peasants and on May 12 two of our comrades in Palo Quemado, Barinas were assassinated. A while after July, on July 12, the [day of] murder, a group of comrades decided to leave from [the camp] to Caracas on foot to demand the president of the Republic justice and on the way they went adding one, two, three people as they went through the states of Carabobo, Aragua and we arrived in Caracas more than 1500 comrades, peasants marching on foot that day. They militarized Miraflores that afternoon, hundreds of soldiers prevented us from arriving in Miraflores. We were two blocks from the government palace.

That march that began with a handful of 30-40 comrades, and in a month arrived in Caracas with more than 1500 comrades and that afternoon of August 2, with torrential rains, the president heard us, he received us and the peasants told him the truth. It is the truth in the countryside what is happening, we ask for justice for our imprisoned comrades, justice for our evicted comrades, justice for more than 370 peasants fallen in the struggle for the land. So that is an example that we can tell the people of the world that will listen to this interview. But we end up being thousands and that is the will in mysticism, in consequence, in firmness, in thoughts and in action that will determine the triumph or defeat of a struggle. Perhaps it is a humble example of our firmness, consequence, tenacity, perseverance in achieving the objective… and the fairness in truth is the message that we convey to the people of the world.

7. What are some of Fundacion Tierra Vermelha’s future plans and how can the Colonized Masses of the world support you all in your work?

Andres: Look, our plans are very concrete, very concrete and some are to make a leap in production, those are central, then creating and developing many young people from the countryside, in the city. Then formation for us is a central axis for people to learn how to organize, how to fight, how to communicate, how to publish their achievements, their struggles, their hopes.

The central theme for us: As we train our colleagues, to not only be militant but we instill militancy in those who produce… because there exist no economic conditions to do that. And we want to work on a video about the fight. [We want to work] to rescue production techniques and we will see black bean seeds here, and I don’t know if there is [united snakkkes], we have pinto beans seed, we have soy seed, then we are going to multiply many leguminous seeds in the southern parts of the country where we have a bank of living seeds including plantains, bananas, cassava, cocoa, coffee. Then another, we we aim to have there rice. It will not be the only seed bank to the extent that it is not one, two, but three thousand. Che Guevara said, “To defeat imperialism one, two, three Vietnams must be created.”

Well, we must create one, two, three thousand seed banks and one, two, three thousand of these formations that multiply the work to overcome imperialism. We must, if you can support it, any comrades from Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States, Oceania. Any comrade will support him in communication, in the organization, in the combustion of seeds, sending a seed, help us with technology, helping us with knowledge of all that work and throughout the world. We are internationalists by nature. Totally internationalistic; the struggle of peoples for the world are our struggles. We will always be international, let us internationalize the fight, internationalize hope!

8. Let us know what you think about one of Black Hammer’s solutions to food sovereignty—Hammer City, a place for Colonized people on Turtle Island to come and live without fear of killer cops, rent, rona, or food scarcity.

Andres: I think it’s a wonderful project…the city as a project is the ideal. The ideal has always been freedom, always from the earliest dawn of humanity until today our people have always fought for freedom and living in a free city means no police harassment, no oppressive authorities, no domination of one power over another, the maximum realization of human [life] in all its fullness, in the exercise of its freedom, where there is no complaint against gender, respect for man and woman and vice versa. But all that is not complete if the issue of hunger, the issue of food is not addressed, then we must build spaces so that people can exercise their freedom and the basic human right, the most basic right, the right to food. This project seems wonderful to me and we here applaud and salute this hopeful and outstanding project, for there will be one, two, three thousand Hammer Cities throughout the world that are cells of humanity, anti-colonialism, and anti-imperial freedom.

On behalf of Black Hammer, we would like to thank you for your time Andres Alayo and give you and Tierra Vermelha a revolutionary salute for all the life-saving work you do for the poor and working-class people of Venezuela, Brasil, Bolivia, and Peru. Land Back.


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