Within and Against the Market: The Guatemalan Campesino Movement under Neoliberal Peace
Granovsky-Larsen, Simon Garth
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The Guatemalan campesino social movement, based in mostly indigenous small and landless farmers, has organized for agrarian reform since the 1970s. This dissertation explores the movement since the end of the Guatemalan armed conflict in 1996, weighing the impact of such factors as the peace process and a neoliberal transition. The dissertation first establishes the role played within the movement by communities that have gained access to land. Secondly, given a reliance on resources from neoliberal institutions such as a World Bank-funded agency for market-led agrarian reform, the Fondo de Tierras, the dissertation asks whether engagement with neoliberalism lessens the impact of the movement. Six case studies—with the National Indigenous and Campesino Coordinator (Coordinadora Nacional Indígena y Campesina, CONIC), the Campesino Committee of the Highlands (Comité Campesino del Altiplano, CCDA), and four rural communities—direct the dissertation to the following conclusions. First, Guatemalan social movements have participated directly in the transition to neoliberalism, due to the political-economic context laid by the end of armed conflict. Second, a tally of land access in the post-conflict period suggests that the amount of land won through agrarian struggles such as historical land claims, rural labour disputes, and land occupations surpasses that sold through the Fondo de Tierras. Finally, assessment of the case studies shows that engagement with neoliberal resources has not reduced the potential of the movement to resist or to establish alternatives to capitalism. In fact, the case studies demonstrate successful projects of non-capitalist socio-economic organization established using neoliberal resources. The dissertation concludes that social movements are capable of engaging strategically with neoliberalism, and that the Guatemalan campesino movement has managed to extract benefits from the neoliberal order while remaining true to transformative goals. Evidence to support these arguments was collected over twelve months of fieldwork using activist research methods, and included participant observation and a total of 137 interviews, survey interviews, and recorded testimonies. Interviews were conducted through the case studies, as well as with an additional ten campesino organizations, with other grassroots groups, and with state institutions. Archival research and access-to-information requests also produced data on national agrarian trends.