The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
Land invasions: has Bolivia caught Brazil Disease?
In a country as chock-full of peasants as Bolivia, what is euphemistically referred to as land reform is bound to be to the fore in times of crisis.
The first reforms of substance took place following the revolution of 1952 : with the exception of intensively farmed land in lowland Santa Cruz department, the haciendas were confiscated and given over to the peasants. Whereupon, it seems, the peasants became a satisfied power in Bolivian politics and, for some time, even took the side of the conservatives .
That was then... And now, it seems, Bolivian peasants are following the lead of their colleagues in Brazil's Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra or MST  in mounting DIY land grabs .
President Carlos Mesa, according to AFP,
ha destacado una comisión a Santa Cruz (900 km al este de La Paz) para negociar con el Movimiento de los Sin Tierra una salida concertada al creciente problema, una "bomba de tiempo", según analistas locales.
The populist Mesa's idea of negotiation sounds more like abject surrender:
La misión oficial tiene por objeto legalizar la toma de tierras en los departamentos (provincias) de Santa Cruz, Cochabamba y La Paz por parte de labriegos desposeídos.
There's plenty for everybody! seems to be the Mesa government's policy. You grab the land, and we'll legalise it.
These occupations are something of a slam-dunk for those - of whom Felipe Quispe (he of the 90 day deadline) might be one - looking a means to escalate the current conflict to a full-blown civil war: either Mesa lets the occupiers stay in place, and confirm to Whom It May Concern - the Bolivian military, for instance, and Uncle Sam - that the country is in the charge of a Boneless Wonder; or else there's a nasty outbreak of lead poisoning, and the golpistas have the propaganda they need to persuade their people of the need to move to the armed struggle.
What there is not - in the stories I've seen - is quantification, in numbers of farms, acreage, numbers occupying, and similar 5 Ws stuff: are these just a handful of symbolic targets selected to keep the rank-and-file happy that the revolution is on the way, or a serious attempt at a land grab?
On quantification of occupations, detto fatto! A piece from October 25 quotes the chief of El Movimiento Sin Tierra, Angel Durán, as saying that
en los últimos días han sido tomadas dos propiedades en Tarija que, unidas a las nueve ocupadas desde el año 2000, suman alrededor de 35.000 hectáreas.
At first blush, numbers like that seem to go well beyond the merely symbolic. It would be interesting to see just what sort of organisation is running a campaign like that.
In what seems a mirror-image of the indecisive leadership being demonstrated by Mesa, hard-man Quispe has doubled the period of his ultimatum! Formerly 90 days, he now says Mesa has 180 days to shape up or be shipped out.
Give it a fortnight, and Quispe will be insisting he serves out the rest of his predecessor's term in full...
Or is he lulling Mesa into a fall sense of security, whilst preparing the revolution for Tuesday fortnight? Strangely, I haven't a clue...
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