CRAV wine militants strike again

13 June, 2008

The familiar calling card of militant winemaker group CRAV has been found near attacks on phone lines and speed cameras in southern France.

Speed cameras and a telephone hub were trashed near Narbonne, with the spray-painted initials of the shadowy vintner group left nearby, local newspaper Midi-Libre reported.

Though attacks like these are considered as “nothing” by leaders, they mark the return of Languedoc’s ‘wine terrorists’ after almost a year’s break.

Times of crisis in Languedoc vineyards have spawned sporadic attacks by CRAV (Comité Régional d’Action Viticole) since its formation in the 1950s. But recently the group’s members have become more isolated.

“CRAV does not exist,” many of the ‘old guard’ declared in 2007, saying the public would no longer accept its violent methods. A new generation of Languedoc winemakers more focused on marketing have begun to wrestle control of the unions – where high-profile members once dished out pleasantries by day and Molotov cocktails by night.

One insider warned that local leaders “no longer have control” of CRAV, a situation that some believe could prove more dangerous. In-fighting led to bomb explosions at two union buildings last summer.

Many Languedoc winemakers remain in debt, according to agriculture union Confederation Paysanne.

Police began to take CRAV more seriously following a video ultimatum delivered by masked figures to incoming president Sarkozy last year.

The video was widely derided by insiders as “bravado” and a “mistake”, but the French journalist who filmed it was interrogated by gendarmes for 24 hours afterwards.

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