Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Bolivia's Radical Land Reform Revolution

(Source Article: Land reform plan angers Bolivian elite - Reuters)

President Evo Morales’s nationalization plan is causing unrest in Bolivia’s populace—particularly within the country’s landed elite. The President has declared an “agrarian revolution” that will redistribute 48 million acres (one-fifth of the country’s total area) of idle farmlands to the country’s landless poor—a declaration that has illustrated the gap between the poor majority and the wealthy. Earlier this month Morales said, “we don’t approve of...large landowners that don’t allow the land to be farmed.”

This plan has sparked a rash response from wealthy agri-business groups in the country, including the National Farming Confederation (NFC); the NFC published a statement rejecting the President’s policy, and saying it would form “self-defense” groups, but did not elaborate on what that means. However, in other parts of Latin America, such terms usually describe groups of armed citizens. (see Bolivia farmers - CNN)

The government responded that they’re willing to have dialogue with the groups, but not if such violence-promoting terms are cast into the fray: “This is an incorrect measure that only seeks confrontation,” Alejandro Almaraz, Bolivia’s vice minister of land, said.

Unfortunately, wealthy farmers seem unwilling to talk with the government; NFC members refused to attend a meeting last week to discuss the problem, claiming that the government allowed illegal invasions of their land near Santa Cruz, an area where much of the land to be redistributed is located.

Agri-land reform isn’t the only component of Morales’s nationalization scheme: earlier this month, Morales sent troops to seize gas fields and threatened oil companies with ejection from the country if they did not agree to new contracts. Economists fear that the nationalization of resources such as oil will be detrimental to the market; most nations, particularly those impoverished ones like Bolivia, do not have the technical expertise or resources to maximize the output of their oil or natural gas reserves, a job that, to some, is best left to professional, corporate entities. (see Nationalistic politics return -

Bolivia has engaged in such land redistribution for the past decade. Unfortunately, because of government corruption and an inefficient justice system, the country’s poor have not reaped much benefit.

A recent survey by the Catholic Church found that a small group of wealthy elites owned 90% of the country’s territory, while 3 million indigenous peasant farmers share the rest.

No comments: