Bolivia pursues ambitious agrarian reform

Unproductive lands would be handed over to farmers and indigenous communities.

One week after the nationalization of the gas industry, Bolivian officials admitted that president Evo Morales is studying an ambitious agrarian reform to distribute 14 million hectares of unproductive lands to farmers and indigenous communities across the multiethnic state.

The package will "transform the socio-economic and institutional structure" of the nation's farming industry, Bolivian Land Vice Minister Alejandro Almaraz said May 8. “This is not only a promise made during the political campaign; this is the result of 15 years of struggles led by farmers and the indigenous communities of the country”, he remarked.

It also became known that the government plans to revert lands accumulated by influential businesses and politicians during Bolivia's 18-year dictatorship which have not fulfilled their "productive functions." Almaraz said more details on the measure could be expected to come in early July.

However, other sources said that the decision has been taken and it will be announced in the “next few weeks” thorugh a law and a number of decrees.

According to the Bolivian government, there are about 15 million of heactares of land illegally occuppied by local and Brazilian businessmen. Most of them are located in the northern province of Pando and the eastern oil-reach region of Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

This is not the first time in which Bolivia faces an agrarian reform. The previous one was in 1953. At that time, the revolutionary government of Victor Paz Estenssoro distributed land in the highlands near La Paz, Potosi and Oruro to farmers. But that reform badly fulfilled expectations as corrupted Paz Estenssoro’s officials benefited politicians and businessmen with ties to the ruling regime.

Hernan Etchaleco

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov