28 Pages

Anything but a story foretold: multiple politics of resistance to the agrarian extractivist project in Guatemala

ByAlberto Alonso-Fradejas

Sugarcane and oil palm agribusinesses are in the vanguard of an emergent project of agrarian capitalism in Guatemala, which is defined here as a financialized and flexible type of agrarian extractivism. Meanwhile, Maya-Q´eqchi´ residents of the northern lowlands believe that the changes in the labor regime, land relations and the agro-ecosystem that the expansion of these agribusinesses has brought threaten their subsistence in multiple and unfamiliar ways. Indeed, growing difficulties in dealing with (vital) grievances is leading many, even those who initially welcomed the corporate sugarcane and oil palm plantations, to transform their unrest into a practice of resistance. Elaborating on what is presented here as a multiple politics perspective, this contribution discusses the nature and character of such contemporary political dynamics of agrarian change. The forms, strategies and practices of the two main and most antagonistic repertoires of contention are explored here: the one in ‘defense of territory’ and the one in the promotion of the ‘agrarian extractivist project’. The tensions across and within multiple corporate, state and social actors who are pushing for, resisting, complying with or operating at the most violent margins of the agrarian extractivist project are also examined. By assessing continuities and ruptures between current and previous cycles of contention around the control of land, water and other natural resources, this paper stresses the often forgotten lesson about trajectories of agrarian change not being a story foretold, but the product of multiple and dynamic politics.