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Chihuahua Farmers Take Control of 30 Grain Warehouses

January 19, 1988

MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) _ Farmers demanding increases in corn and bean prices on Monday controlled 30 government food warehouses in the northern border state of Chihuahua, spokesmen for the protesters said.

Sympathizers delivered food and blankets to 70 other farmers who have camped in front of the state capital of Chihuahua city since Thursday, said Guillermo Villalobos, director of the private business organization Centro Empresarial in Chihuahua.

He blamed the federal government for the state’s problems and said, ″There’s an atmosphere of disorder here. The crisis has people feeling very abandoned.″

As part of its anti-inflation program, the federal government last month announced that guaranteed farm prices will be held at 1987 levels, after adjustments for inflation.

The protesting farmers, members of the Chihuahua Peasant Organizations’ Front, began their takeover on Dec. 27 when they seized control of a warehouse belonging to the government’s Conasupo food company. Since then they have expanded their control to other warehouses, allowing grains to be delivered but not removed.

Spokesmen for the group said they did not know the number of farmers participating because the protesters take turns occupying the warehouses.

The protest has gained support from some Roman Catholic leaders and private citizens.

Villalobos said individual businessmen have taken up collections to buy food for the protesters.

Chihuahua Gov. Fernando Baeza met Monday with a delegation of farmers led by the Rev. Camilo Perez, a Catholic priest who has become a spokesman for the peasants.

Angel Tores Perea, state director of public relations, said the government proposed that corn and bean prices be increased, but only for the estimated 22,000 poorest farmers who work non-irrigated lands that produce low yields.

He said no agreement has been reached between the farmers and government.

Baeza is to go to Mexico City Wednesday to talk to federal agriculture authorities, who would have to authorize any price increase, according to Tores Perea.

Perez could not be reached for comment at his church in Anahuac, 60 miles southwest of the state capital, where the farmers first seized control of a warehouse.

He said last week the protesters want an immediate 43 percent increase in corn and bean prices and the prices then should be indexed to the cost of gasoline, which recently went up 85 percent.

Farmers now receive 245 pesos, about 11 cents, per kilogram of corn and 525 pesos, or 23 cents, for a kilogram of beans. A kilogram equals 2.2 pounds.

Chihuahua Archbishop Adalberto Almeida is among the Catholic leaders supporting the farmers.

″The peasants aren’t asking for or demanding privileges. They’re asking for, demanding and struggling for subsistence, the first of all Christian and human rights,″ church leaders said in a paid advertisement in Chihuahua newspapers.

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