Wednesday, May 17, 2006

On the Brink of Land Reform

Vicepresident Garcia Linera announced that 2 to 4 million ha. would be distributed to peasants, once again by decree. Evo Morales is expected to sign 6 decrees outlining land reform later today (here). Santa Cruz and Beni are not going to let this happen without a fight, it seems (here).

So, Evo's decrees are expected to follow these purposes:

Reform to law 1715, so that the state would be able to 'reverse' lands that do not fulfill an economic or social role.

Redistribution in favour of indigenous people and communities.

To speed up reorganization of land, including social movements and producers.

Concession value, so that the state can set the value of lands.

Social control, so that land in certain areas be accessed.

Overrule two norms approved on 2005. With this decree, the government strip prefects of the power they held in the reorganization of land and does not accept the creation of forest zones.

So, what does this mean?
First, Evo will try to reverse law 1715, from the National Institute of Land Reform, also known as the INRA law, in order to 'reverse' lands that do not fulfill an economic or social function. In other words, Evo is about to strip landowners of their property. All the discourse about lands satisfying this or that function is nothing but an excuse for taking away the assets of the Oriental landowners. Surely, the fact that this group is the most vocal opponent to Evo's policies must be purely coincidental.

In a similar move, MAS wants to strip prefects of all the power they have. With this measure, Evo is giving very strong signals about centralizing power. Most prefects are from the opposition and have given Evo trouble whenever it was possible. With this decree, Evo starts taking all their power for himself. The fact that the government is no longer supporting the autonomy vote in the forthcoming referendum, while some groups inside of MAS are opting for the 'NO' vote, is nothing but further evidence that Evo wants to concentrate all the power in his hands.

Also, the fact that the government will be the one deciding the value of land is worrying. Today, the government fixes prices for land and transport (here and here), tomorrow, all prices are fixed by the government and we are back in 1982. Since it is the government's belief that free markets are for imperialists or slaves, it would not be wise to expect price-fixing ending here.

And finally, redistribution. From La Razon, it seems that there will be two kinds of winners from Evo's land reform: First, indigenous people. On the one hand, poverty is tied with race in Latin America, so that indigenous people are indeed poor and would welcome such a move. However, poverty in Bolivia is not as discriminating as Evo would let you believe. It is sad to see that poor people not satisfying the 'race' requirement will be left out of the deal. Also, the fact that indigenous people constitute the grassroots support for Evo is merely coincidental.
And second, social movements. It seems that at least some part of this new reform will be an open bribe to social groups. If social movements are included in the reorganization of land, expect a new class of landowners to arise: The union leader.
Destroying what's left of property rights in Bolivia only to give rise to a new class of landowner is as stupid as it sounds.

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Anonymous anticap said...

Let's go to see this:,,1775561,00.html

11:57 AM  

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