Also, they were fighting back against major corporations who had changed the laws to enable mining in a national park. Further, African palm trees were being planted to replace banana tree. The palm trees greatly deplete the soil.
Afterwards, I joined a subgroup to meet with the Comandante of the Bajo Aguan region. We had several questions to ask, such as why does the military perform police work; why such a large military presence in the region; why has the military been unable to control the para military forces?
The Comandante presented the military as primarily concerned with supporting the infrastructure for schools and hospitals. Their current focus was not on the large landowners but the small landowners who were competing with each other. Similar responses were given to our other questions.
Prior to the meeting, I had suggested that community people may want to set up a series of meetings with representatives from the military. This suggestion was met with fear. They consider the military a hostile, occupying force.
In the evening, we accompanied a large group of community people protesting the creation of a mining refinery on a nearby river. While people of wealth can drink bottled water, poor people must rely on the river for their drinking water.
My sense was that the people in power made laws that gave little regard to the people without power. When the ordinary people realized the negative impact of these laws, they protested. In response to these protests, the government criminalized the protesters.
I had a nice conversation with a young man at the rally. Eddy, who is 25, is the youngest of seven siblings. He works in a nearby cornfield. He doesn't own a car but has a bicycle which he considers better because of the exercise. He enjoys playing soccer with his friends. In response to my question concerning violence, he replied that there was little violence in his community but a nearby community was known to be violent.
He seemed like a rather joyful person. I was glad I had ended the day by chatting with him.