POLC99 Lecture 8 – March 1
The Politics of the Rural Dispossessed: Brazil and Mexico
The Land Question
The complex issues regarding access to land, agricultural productivity, cultural
reproduction and rural poverty and unemployment. Reforms either didn’t go far
enough or they were reversed by other regimes. 1998: 90% of all arable land in
Latin America was concentrated in the hands of a few landowners or corporations.
Land reform is very state-centric.
Three Paths to Reform:
1.State-Led Land Reform: 1960s as a result of revolutionary pressure from
peasants. Most governments in Latin America in the 1960s conducted a land
reform. The government seized the land from large landowners compensating
them with government bonds. Peasants got entitled to small plots of land. For
the most part, the state didn’t want to mess with large landowners and
instead handed over large parcels of land in the Amazon. Only in Cuba and
Nicaragua they went after foreign-owned farms.
-Expropriation with compensation. It was coercive and the amount the
landowners received was below market value prices.
-Highly centralized and bureaucratic. Very timely and costly, lot’s of red
tape and the government subsidized this endevour for the peasants.
-Low credit and investments. To be successful you needed credit subsidies
and access to markets, which was very expensive. Without support behind
it, it doesn’t tend to work. You can give a family a small plot of land, over
the next generation when the family expands it’s not going to work.
2.Market- Led Agrarian Reform : 1990s the World Bank came in, free
markets, free sellers, voluntary transactions, willing to sell as opposed to
being coerced to sell.
-Wiling sellers and willing buyers. It’s about cooperation, not to be forced
into anything. The incentive for the peasants is 100% cash on the spot,
-Studies have found that for the market mechanism to work you need a 3
times more land supply than demand. It’s not the case in Latin America.
Hence, the main mechanism for running this operation was land banks.
Private banks lent money to peasants to buy land from the landlords.