Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 217 | Agosto 1999


Latin America

Agrarian Reforms: The Latin American Legacy (part 2)

How should we assess the agrarian reforms implemented in Latin America between the 1950s and 1980s? Did they achieve their original objectives of redistributing income or eradicating poverty? What remnants of the reforms have the cold winds of neoliberalism left behind? What is their most important legacy?

Cristóbal Kay

Although agrarian reform may be a prerequisite for sustainable development, it is certainly not a panacea for all of the disasters suffered by Latin American rural economies and societies. Nonetheless, as the enthusiasm of the initial campaigns suggests, agrarian reform was often seen as a miracle cure, a way to free the peasant sector from the landlord system and its feudal conditions of exploitation and to achieve a level of equitable rural development that would reduce poverty. It was also considered an important way to facilitate industrialization in Latin America countries, which at the time was struggling to expand the national market and mitigate exchange rate restrictions.

Feigned enthusiasm and fierce opposition

Given that agrarian reforms were seen as a cure-all, it seems paradoxical that governments did not provide the necessary financial, technical, organizational and institutional support to ensure their success. In many cases, the continuation of import substitution policies and discrimination against agriculture through price, trade and credit policies made it impossible to create a viable agrarian reform sector. Errors in the design and application of the reforms also contributed to the eventual disintegration of the reformed sector.

For a number of reasons, the majority of agrarian reforms did not live up to the expectations they created. In several cases, the governments implemented the reforms rather halfheartedly in the hope of reaping electoral benefits or receiving aid from international organizations, while feigning enthusiasm to satisfy national or foreign political interests. On other occasions, fierce political opposition from landowners, sometimes backed by certain sectors of the bourgeoisie, limited the scope of the reforms.

Effects on agricultural production in different countries studied

Mexico. The agrarian reforms have affected agricultural production in various ways. In Mexico, the reforms implemented by the Cárdenas government and the support it offered to agricultural development led to a 325% rise in production between 1934 and 1965, the biggest rise in Latin America during that period. But from then on Mexico's agricultural performance was poor. Research has shown, however, that reformed sector ejidos—indigenous-originated collective farms mainly organized into individual family plots—have proven just as profitable as private sector farms of an equivalent size.

Today, the most dynamic sector in Mexican agriculture is made up of private medium- and large-scale farmers. For several decades now, they have been the main beneficiaries of government policies that have favored commercial agriculture but provided little support to beneficiaries of the agrarian reform. Considerable government investment in irrigation and subsidized credits has mainly favored the big farmers and the production of export crops, to the general exclusion of the ejido sector, which is based on food production for domestic consumption. Only from 1980-81 did the Mexican government attempt to revitalize peasant agriculture and the ejido system by means of a food self-sufficiency policy financed by the flow of petrodollars and profits from the export of Mexico's own petroleum.

Bolivia. In Bolivia, the first years after the agrarian reforms saw a drop in the amount of agricultural production marketed due to an increase in food consumption among the reform beneficiaries. Some analysts maintain that production levels remained the same, while others argue that it took over a decade for them to reach pre-revolutionary levels. The agricultural growth achieved years later was the result of extending the agricultural frontier into the eastern lowlands, a process encouraged by the state and designed to promote commercial agriculture and export crops.

Chile. In Chile, the agrarian reform initially had a very positive effect on agricultural production, which rose on average by 4.6% a year from 1965 to 1968, three times higher than in the previous two decades. Growth slowed down at the end of the Frei administration, however, then rose significantly in the first year of the Allende government, stagnated during the second and fell dramatically in 1973 as a result of socio-political disturbances and a shortage of products. It is calculated that the initial rise came largely from the commercial agricultural sector, particularly that of the former hacienda landowners. This is hardly surprising as, during the reforms, the landowners often kept the best land, referred to as "reserves," and their equipment and could thus intensify their production. The reformed sector performed reasonably well at the beginning and received a lot of government support in the form of credit, technical aid, marketing facilities, mechanization, etc. This was no mean achievement considering that the landowners had decapitalized their properties in anticipation of the expropriations. The acceleration of the expropriation process drained the state's administrative and economic resources, however, leaving the reformed sector in serious trouble. Furthermore, internal organizational conflicts began to increase as the agrarian reform beneficiaries dedicated more and more time to their private plots and less to the collective enterprise.

Peru. In Peru, the agrarian reform failed to improve on previously low levels of agricultural production, the 1.8% growth rate for 1970-76 being similar to the average rate before the reforms were implemented in the 1960s. The average annual agricultural growth rate for the 1970-80 period as a whole was negative (-0.6%) due to a drought in 1978 and a serious economic recession at the end of the 1970s that had negative repercussions on agriculture. Although production recovered during the 1980s, the 2% annual growth rate remained below the annual population growth rate of 2.2%. The reformed sector was partly responsible for such a poor performance, plagued as it was by internal conflicts between government-named administrators and beneficiaries, but the state made matters even worse by failing to provide resources or technical training to the beneficiaries. It also insisted on maintaining low food prices, thus reducing reformed sector profits. The reformed enterprises further suffered land takeovers by peasant communities from the mountainous areas and were affected by the violent activities of the Shining Path guerrilla movement during the 1980s.

Nicaragua. In Nicaragua, a series of factors conspired against the economic success of the agrarian reform that followed the 1979 revolution. While the previous decade was characterized by agricultural stagnation, production fell at an average rate of 0.9% per year following the agrarian reform of the 1980s. The armed conflict between the contras and the Sandinista government gravely affected production, but other factors also contributed to the negative performance. Among these were uncertainty over land ownership, which inhibited individual peasants from making any investments, the generalized slaughter of cattle by ranchers who feared expropriation, a labor shortage, changes in the marketing system and, last but by no means least, poor administration of reformed sector enterprises.

El Salvador. In El Salvador, the agrarian reform was implemented in 1980, during a civil war that only came to an end in 1992. During the 1980s, the country's gross domestic product fell by 0.4% a year while agriculture fell by 0.7%. The general view that private agriculture is better than collective agriculture is not shared in El Salvador, where the profits made on collective lands belonging to productive cooperatives in the reformed sector were often higher than those obtained on family farms, whether part of the reformed sector or not.

Income redistribution: The results

The success of the agrarian reforms in terms of income redistribution was also more limited than had been anticipated. Redistribution occurs through various factors. For example, the effects are greater if more land is expropriated and distributed to the rural population, especially the rural poor. It is calculated that the agrarian reform of the Velasco government in Peru redistributed only 1-2% of national income through land transfer to approximately one third of the peasant families. The coastal region's sugar cane workers, who are the best paid rural workers in Peru, were the main beneficiaries, while the comuneros—indigenous peasants whose community land is held in common but worked individually—benefited least even though they are the largest and poorest group in the peasant sector.

The effects are also greater the less compensation is paid to landowners and the less the beneficiaries—particularly if they include members of the rural poor—have to pay for the land. Agrarian reform also has a greater redistributive effect in countries with relatively large rural economies and populations.

Social policy and overall economic performance also affect it. In Cuba, for example, the agrarian reform had a far greater effect on income redistribution than in Ecuador, not only because the reforms were much less profound in the latter country, but also because Cuban health and education policies were mainly aimed at the rural poor.
The initial positive effects of agrarian reform land redistribution were often cancelled out by the poor performance of both the collective and private reformed sectors and by macroeconomic factors such as unfavorable domestic terms of trade and exchange rate policies. If a country is suffering both agricultural and economic stagnation, the only thing redistributed is poverty.

In addition, by excluding the poorest sectors of the rural population, such as members of peasant communities, smallholders and temporary workers, many agrarian reforms accentuated the social and economic differentiation within the peasant sector. Workers who rented land and year-round wage workers who generally became full “members” of the reformed sector sometimes perpetuated the old landowner practice of employing low-paid outside temporary labor, or rented out pastureland and other reformed sector resources to smallholders and comuneros who were not reform beneficiaries. As a result, those who were excluded from the reformed sector in many Latin American countries, such as Peru, El Salvador and Nicaragua, viewed those included as the new landowning class.

Was poverty reduced?

The effect of agrarian reform on income redistribution also depends on how it affects employment. It is calculated that the male agricultural employment rate in Peru tripled in the decade following the reforms, but thereafter rose by a rather modest 0.9% per year. The effects of the Chilean agrarian reform on net employment were also modest as the rural exodus continued to increase. The reserves employed less labor per hectare than the old haciendas due to their high levels of capitalization. The reformed sector compensated for this, however, by employing more workers per hectare than the old properties, particularly in terms of family labor. Nonetheless, a shortage of capital and inputs in several reform sector enterprises reduced the amount of land cultivated and therefore the positive effect on employment.

Given the disappointing record of the agrarian reforms in agricultural production, income distribution and employment, their mitigating effect on poverty was also marginal. Although living conditions improved for those directly benefited by the reforms, they were generally not from the poorest sectors of rural society. With the exception of Cuba, the agrarian reforms did not target smallholders, seasonal workers, who were often landless, and comuneros, even though they made up the bulk of the rural poor. Land was distributed to indigenous communities in Mexico and to a certain extent in Bolivia, and in Peru certain areas of land were also given over to indigenous communities following a decade of protests and occupations of reformed sector lands by comuneros. But any positive results achieved were easily reversed during periods of economic crisis.

Any limited improvements in the lives of the rural poor during the reforms of the 1960s and 1970s were practically all wiped out during the “lost decade” of the 1980s triggered by Latin America's foreign debt crisis. Calculations of rural poverty vary due to inadequate figures and the different methodologies and definitions employed. At best, rural poverty levels remained the same during the 1980s, to the detriment of the improvements achieved in previous decades. At worst, they rose from 45% to over 50% among the continent's rural population.

Gender inequality: Balance in the red

The bottom line is also negative in the area of gender inequality. Most agrarian reform legislation ignored women's position and did not explicitly include women as beneficiaries, provide them with property titles or incorporate them into key administrative or decision-making processes in the cooperatives, state enterprises and other organizations that emerged from the reform process.

Women accounted for only 15% of ejido members in Mexico, while they represented only 6% of cooperative workers in Nicaragua and 5% in Peru. Even in Cuba, women made up only a quarter of the production cooperative members and their presence was even more limited in the state enterprises.

They were mainly excluded as beneficiaries for judicial, structural and ideological reasons. The disposition that only one member of a cooperative or individual could be the official beneficiary of a property and receive the title deed tended to discriminate against women since men were considered the heads of family. The agrarian reform implemented in Chile reinforced the idea that men were the main providers and, despite certain legislative moves in the opposite direction during the Allende government, only offered limited opportunities for women's participation in reformed sector administration.

The greatest success: Socio-political integration

Collective agriculture ran into the old problems of inadequate work incentives and workers with no real experience in working together. Beneficiaries were generally paid the same salary regardless of the work they put in, so some did not even bother turning up and many worked under five hours a day. Labor controls were often weak and collective resources and inputs were frequently misused or ended up as private property. The profits, if any, were often redistributed rather than invested and sometimes the administrative offices were so far away that they did not bother to consult or include the collective members in decision-making processes. Such pressures on collective agriculture were exacerbated when peasants from indigenous communities or areas consisting mainly of smallholdings that had been excluded from the agrarian reform occupied lands.

For all that, the greatest success of the agrarian reforms was their encouragement of a certain institutionality in the countryside. Before the reforms, peasants were completely blocked from creating their own organizations. With their implementation, however, the different governments helped organize the peasant sector into various kinds of unions and cooperatives, including producer, marketing and credit associations. In addition, the different political parties, chasing the peasant vote, expanded their networks into rural zones where the landowning oligarchy had in the past excluded reformist parties, particularly those of a leftist slant. All this helped bring a considerable number of peasants into the national economy, society and politics.

The reforms also encouraged peasant participation in civil society. Many peasants felt that they only finally became citizens of their respective countries following the reforms, especially if they received a property title. By weakening the power of the landowners and other groups that dominated the countryside, the agrarian reforms helped provide the peasant sector with a more powerful voice in local and national affairs. This greater level of organization and peasant participation, however, did not extend to all peasant sector groups or even all regions of the countries involved. The process also suffered various setbacks from which the peasants have yet to recover.

The agrarian reform programs were usually accompanied by legislation or other measures aimed at promoting organizations. Governments often sought to establish peasant organizations that would extend and consolidate their own influence in the countryside, achieving their greatest success through alliances with peasants from the reformed sector who directly benefited from government patronage. They were not always able to maintain such alliances, however. Several peasant organizations came to view government patronage as an obstacle to their perceived goals and sought to achieve a degree of autonomy by freeing themselves from government cooptation.

Mexico. The agrarian reform in Mexico clearly contributed to the political system's stability, though not necessarily to its democratic development. For many decades, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) succeeded in coopting the peasant sector. In recent years, a range of political forces have challenged the PRI's hegemony, weakening its domination over the peasant sector, as demonstrated by the Zapatista rebellion in southeast Mexico.

Nicaragua. The Sandinista agrarian reform provoked a far-reaching organizational effort within the peasant sector. The government encouraged the creation of the National Union of Farmers and Ranchers (UNAG) in 1981, and by 1987 a fifth of all agricultural producers belonged to it. With time, UNAG also managed to win a large degree of autonomy from the state and is still the country's most important peasant and agricultural association.
Chile. The Chilean agrarian reform also brought about a greatly increased level of organization. In 1965 only 2,100 rural wage workers belonged to agricultural unions; that figure rose to 140,000 in 1970 and 282,000 by the end of 1972—at four-fifths of the country's agricultural wage workers, an unusually high figure for Latin America.

The agrarian reforms tended to intensify social conflicts in the countryside and in society in general in the short term, and Chile was no exception. Strikes and land confiscation increased as the peasants organized, grew in self confidence and became less worried about repression. It was no longer so easy for landowners to fire agricultural workers, nor could they count on swift state retribution against a peasant movement that demanded the acceleration and extension of the expropriation process. The intensified rural conflicts contributed to the coup d'état against Allende and the end of the democratic system that had distinguished Chile from most other Latin American countries.

After Allende was overthrown, the peasant organizations lost so much power that they have found it very difficult to reorganize and regain their former influence since the end of the Pinochet dictatorship.
Peru. The military government of Velasco Alvarado used the National Social Mobilization Support System (SINAMOS) to establish a peasant organization, the National Agrarian Confederation (CNA), as a rival to the autonomous Peasant Confederation of Peru (CCP), founded in 1947. But the CNA grew increasingly independent of government tutelage, demanding a more radical expropriation process and a greater say in the administration of the mainly state-run reformed enterprises. The constantly growing independence and power of the CNA, whose membership at one point doubled that of the CCP, led the government to dismantle it in 1978. The conflicts between agrarian reform beneficiaries and peasant communities, in which comuneros occupied reformed sector land, ended when the government transferred part of the reformed sector land to the communities. Although the Shining Path guerrilla movement was partly stimulated by the agrarian reform, it never really took root in the countryside, especially in regions that experienced a more intensive reform process.

Cuba and Bolivia. The popular nature of the Cuban reforms, which benefited a large proportion of the rural labor force, reinforced the Castro regime. In Bolivia the concession of land to the indigenous population reduced rural social conflicts; as a result, other social forces came to represent the main threat to the country's political stability.

More complex agrarian structures;
a move toward agrarian capitalism

In Latin America in general, the agrarian reforms and subsequent disintegration of the reformed sector have created a more complex agrarian structure. The system of large estates was reduced and transformed while the peasant sector and the medium and medium-to-large commercial farming sector increased. The de-collectivization also increased the heterogeneity within the peasant sector as the leveling tendency of collective agriculture disappeared. The development trend of commercial agriculture towards agrarian capitalism is beginning to impose itself following the introduction of neoliberal policies. Capitalist farmers are benefiting from the liberalizing of land, labor and the financial markets, the opening of the economy to international competition, the new export drive and the withdrawal of measures aimed at supporting the peasant sector. Having more land, capital and technical resources, closer links to the national and especially the international market and greater influence over agricultural policy guarantee them greater capacity than the peasant producers to exploit new opportunities offered by the markets.

While the effects of agrarian reform on agricultural production, rural poverty, income distribution and social and political participation were mixed in the best of cases, the institutional changes that they produced have unquestionably contributed to capitalist development. Land and labor markets have grown more flexible and agricultural investment opportunities have improved, leading to agriculture's increased capacity to respond to macroeconomic policies and global market forces. The main legacy of agrarian reform lies partly in having accelerated the fall of the landowning oligarchy and stripped away the institutional waste that blocked the development of markets and the full commercialization of agriculture, though the latter was only achieved after the reformed sector had been broken up.

In the end, the main agrarian reform beneficiaries have been the capitalist farmers; for the majority of peasants, it has yet to deliver its promises, although a minority did benefit to a certain extent. Poverty, exclusion and lack of land are still everyday reality in Latin America. That the land question has still not been resolved was clearly illustrated by the Chiapas uprising in Mexico and the struggle to obtain a plot of land currently being waged by Brazilian landless peasants, organized in the Landless Movement (MST). Brazil's Cardosa government promised to provide land to 280,000 peasant families, but so far has only done so to 100,000 under pressure from the MST and its strategies of land occupation and mass demonstrations.

Modernization of insecurity

Nonetheless, the era of radical agrarian reform is over. Even though academics and activists continue to argue for reforms and ethnic and peasant movements are still demanding land redistribution, a shift has occurred. Instead of the state's interventionist agrarian reform programs there are now market-oriented land policies, particularly land-titling programs, that are still too imposed from above by the state and by international organizations.

The evidence so far suggests that all that has been achieved is the “modernization of insecurity.” If this is to change, it must be recognized that property titles based on custom, for example indigenous communal landholdings, and leasing arrangements in rural communities often offer greater security and flexibility to peasants than World Bank-sponsored land titling programs. In reality, it is the peasants who get the worst deal out of such deed issuing projects due to their weak position in both the market and the political system, which is incapable of protecting their right to land.

In the democratization of society, organization is vital

Although the scope of the agrarian reforms was often limited and their goals obstructed by opposition forces or by poor government administration, social stability and political integration are becoming established and facilitating economic development in those countries where the reforms were more profound and poverty and social exclusion have been significantly reduced. It could be argued that the agrarian reforms have so far encouraged greater—though in some cases precarious—social stability over the longer term and have made a very considerable contribution to the democratization of society. Even though agrarian reforms were a watershed for rural society in many Latin American countries, however, the root causes of social and political instability will continue to prevail as long as relatively high levels of rural poverty and peasant marginalization persist.

In conclusion, agrarian reforms provided a framework for growth, equity and sustainable development in rural society only when accompanied by complementary policies and appropriate macroeconomic measures. Although clearly facilitated by a favorable foreign climate, domestic transformations continue to be decisive in determining the results of the agrarian process. Therefore, rather than considering agrarian reform to be a panacea, it is better to view it as a highly important instrument of transformation that can be used to help achieve the above objectives.

Although the search for agrarian reform goes on, issues of prices, markets, credits, technical support, wages, regionalization and globalization currently exercise a profound influence over agricultural performance and peasant welfare. It is essential for peasant and rural workers to organize and strengthen their representative institutions so they can shape and ensure their future survival in a world increasingly dictated by globalizing forces. While it is improbable that there will be any further far-reaching agrarian reforms, particularly of a collectivist bent, it is certainly premature to state that current land policies and neoliberal measures will provide a definitive solution to the Latin American agrarian problem. Any real solution requires more changes to a land tenure system in which inequality and exclusion still reign with impunity.

In The Wake Of The Neoliberal Hurricane

The neoliberal winds that have been blowing throughout Latin America and the world in general since the 1980s have had particularly serious consequences for the rural sector. The state banks that provided agroindustrial, marketing and technical support have been privatized, along with other state enterprises that provided a series of subsidized services to peasant and other agricultural producers. Foreign trade reforms and the elimination of price controls changed relative prices, providing an incentive for agricultural exports. Commercial farmers adapted better to the changing circumstances, exploiting certain advantageous export opportunities, particularly in nontraditional agroexports, whereas most peasants were poorly equipped for the neoliberal challenge given their traditional disadvantage in the market, which was far from an even playing field in the first place. The minority of peasant groups with better resources, business skills, geographical advantages in terms of market conditions and/or agro-climates or that had access to NGO development programs did manage to adapt with good results.

Neoliberalism favors a land policy that emphasizes the free market and land ownership security over agrarian reform. It is considered that a free and active land market leads to the distribution of land to the most profitable producers, while land tenure security will stimulate long-term investment. As many peasant farmers, particularly those living in newly settled lands, had dubious land titles or none at all, international organizations such as the World Bank have financed land-registry and title-issuing programs throughout Latin America. They argue that secure and transparent property rights will facilitate land transactions and give producers access to credits in the formal financial market, since deeded property can be used as loan collateral.

The crisis in collective agriculture

Neoliberals also favor individual over collective or communal property rights, viewing the former as providing greater efficiency and market transparency. They have therefore encouraged governments to facilitate the privatization of communally held lands belonging to indigenous peasant communities and the segmentation of the collective reformed sector. In some cases, poor administration and inadequate state support have led beneficiaries to seek individual solutions to collective problems, which has generally meant expanding
their own peasant economy within the reformed sector. As a result, these neoliberal measures have served to formalize an ongoing dismemberment of the collective reformed sector and of communal agreements within peasant/indigenous communities.

Many collective and state cooperatives were broken up following the installation of either democratic or military neoliberal governments. The neoliberal reforms and the division of the reformed sector meant that former peasants who lived on haciendas and later benefited from the agrarian reform now owned their own plot of land. This new group, known as parceleros, has grown in many Latin American countries. Chile was the first to initiate this process at the beginning of 1973, with Peru, Nicaragua, and Mexico and El Salvador following suit more gradually in 1980, 1990 and 1992 respectively. Some expropriated land has been returned to its original owners, particularly in Chile, but most of it was redistributed to reformed sector members as private plots. This land division doubled or even tripled the area of land owned by the agricultural peasant sector. To what extent this process will lead the peasants towards capitalism remains to be seen. A fair number who initially received a plot could not keep up with their payments or find a way to finance their agricultural operations and finally had to sell their land. The process of creating a new peasantry has thus turned bitter for many who are faced with either remaining impoverished peasants barely eking out a subsistence living or giving up their land and becoming completely proletarianized. In several countries a considerable number of people within the reformed sector did not receive plots and joined the ranks of the rural proletariat.

Chile. Under the counter-reform carried out by General Pinochet's military government in Chile, approximately 30% of the formerly expropriated land was returned to its owners, nearly 20% was sold to individuals or institutional investors and the remaining half stayed in the hands of the reformed sector, subdivided into family plots or agricultural units. Just under half of the original beneficiaries received no plot because the counter-reform halved the reformed sector and subdivided the plots in a relatively generous manner, measuring an average of 9 irrigated base hectares (hib), which is a unit of good quality land. Poor quality plots covered over 9 physical hectares, often measuring between 11 and 15. The hib plots were generally nine times bigger than a smallholding.

There was clear discrimination in the distribution of the plots against peasant activists who had been expelled from the reformed sector. The state sold the land to the parceleros at around half its market value. In the following years, approximately half of those parceleros lost their land because they could not cover the debts they had contracted to pay for it, or because they lacked capital, administration and market experience.
A noticeable difference between Chile's land tenure structure before the reform (1965) and after the counter-reform (1986) is that the agricultural sector with 5-20 hib increased by over half, while the sector with more than 80 hib decreased by just under half. The considerable growth in the 5-20 hib sector, which currently accounts for approximately a quarter of the country's agricultural land, is largely due to the above-mentioned division of land into individual plots. This sector consists of medium-income and “rich” peasants and small-scale agricultural capitalists. The creation of reserves and the partial restoration of expropriated lands to former landowners has also led to the considerable expansion of the sector made up of medium and medium-to-large capitalist farmers (20-80 hib), who account for almost a third of the country's land. The large farms covering over 80 hib have little in common with the old haciendas and account for approximately a quarter of the country's land. The average size of these farms (125 hib) is much smaller than that of the old haciendas (235 hib).
The most important result is that social relations and production techniques have been completely transformed; the large farms are now capitalist and completely modernized. Many medium and large capitalist farms switched over to nontraditional exports, which have formed the basis of Chile's agroexport boom over the last two decades. Only a few parceleros—who can no longer be termed smallholders because of the size of their plots—have been able to enter the agroexport market and reap some benefits from this boom.

Peru. With the exception of the sugar cooperatives, Peru's coastal agricultural cooperatives were subdivided into individual plots or family farms and distributed to the cooperative members. These plots generally covered 3-6 hectares, averaging 4.5. In the mountain regions, part of the cooperatives' land was collectively transferred to neighboring peasant communities, a process known as “redimensioning,” while the rest was divided up and distributed to individuals and cooperative members. It has taken many years to legalize these land transfers and issue the deeds, and the process is still continuing. To date, Peru's land division has been the most extensive in Latin America. Farms of under ten hectares, a considerable number of which are plots from the land division, presently account for around half % of Peru's agricultural land and approximately two thirds of its cattle. Nonetheless, the development of this parcelero sector has been blocked by a lack of financial resources, among other factors.

Cuba. Cuba has not remained unaffected by the neoliberal consensus. The disappearance of the Soviet Union and transition of former communist-bloc countries from a planned to a market economy meant that Cuba had to make certain adjustments, albeit within a socialist context. Great opportunities and economic incentives for the peasants and productive cooperatives have been offered. Private agricultural markets were introduced in 1994 in which prices are not state-controlled and producers can sell any surplus left after they have covered their state market quotas. Since the end of 1993, the extensive state agricultural sector has been gradually decentralized into Basic Cooperative Production Units (UBPC), whose members negotiate their production plans with the state but own what they produce and can distribute any profits they make. The cooperative sector is now much more important than the state agricultural sector, which once accounted for four-fifths of the country's land.

In the future, state intervention in the land tenure system in Latin America in general will probably be reduced to a policy based on land transfer and financial mechanisms, land markets, land registry and deeding to ensure legally secure properties and a progressive tax on land, settlements and state-sponsored colonization projects. A variety of investigations, however, indicate that these policies have also failed to provide the promised panacea. Although clearly defined property rights could benefit a considerable number of people given that approximately 50% of rural families in Latin America do not hold title deeds for their properties, the economic and sociopolitical context conspires against the small farmers.

Cristóbal Kay is from the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague. The above article was translated by envío from the article “¿El fin de la reforma agraria en América Latina?”, first published in La Revista Mexicana de Sociología, octubre-diciembre 1998. Part 1 of this article appeared in the July issue of envío.

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