Guatemala City, October 16. Campesino leaders announced the resumption of their land campaign October 12 with the ocupation of the Taltic estate in Costa Cuca, Quetzaltenango province, following the government's cancellation of talks aimed at resolving land issues.
National Indigenous and Campesino Coalition (CONIC) director Juan Tinay warned that Taltic would be the first in a series of new land invasions by campesino organizations. "If the government refuses to attend to our requests for dialogue, we will intensify our pressure tactics by invading the estates stolen from the indigenous people 503 years ago," he said.
CONIC says 20 estates notorious for labor violations will be the first to be occupied in the campaign. The campesinos hope their actions will also serve to pressure the government and the National Guatemalan Revolutionary Unity (URNG) to reach an agreement on agrarian reform.
As part of the campaign, several hundred campesinos from the provinces of Quetzaltengo and Retahuleu began to camp outside the presidential palace in Guatemala City October 14. "We're going to remain here until the government provides a satisfactory solution to our land problems," declared campesino representative Diego P Lpez.
The campesinos occupied two estates six months ago, but abandoned them peacefully after the government promised a quick resolution to their land claims. Since then they have heard nothing, the campesinos say.
Meanwhile campesinos from five fincas marched through the streets of Salam, Salam province October 12 to protest "subhuman" working conditions and demand an increase in the minimum wage (currently set at US $2.40 a day).