Presentation and Q&A
5:15 pm • 5 March, 2014 • Yalamaya Kendra, Patan Dhoka, Lalitpur
This presentation by two Latin American anthropologists-cum-social activists, Zohanny Arboleda-Mutis and Rigoberta Rivera, will focus on attempts to achieve social justice in Latin America through land reforms, resolution of the agrarian question and peace initiatives. It is expected that their experiences and reflections on these issues in post-conflict Latin America would be of relevance to Nepal given similar challenges faced here in solving a set of complex questions pertaining to lasting peace and social justice.
Zohanny Arboleda-Mutis will focus on the Colombian case in her presentation while
Rigoberta Rivera will present a broader picture of Latin America in general, with examples from a few countries.
Towards Alternative Solutions
Colombian Experience on the Agrarian Question and Paths to Follow
Land and agrarian questions are at the core of the current social, political and economic panorama of Colombia’s reality. In the last year, the country has experienced historical events that indicate the vibrant and complex context within which the land and agrarian discussions are the most important topic on the agenda. Events such as the national agrarian strike in August 2013, the ongoing peace dialogues between the Colombian government and leftist guerrillas of FARC (Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces), and the numerous conflicts over land caused by extractive industries in rural areas provide a dynamic scenario to talk about social justice and land and territories.
This presentation will give an overview of the Colombian experience regarding its agrarian structure and the historical debt of the peasantry and rural inhabitants. This debt is manifested in two problems: the historical land property concentration and the lack of peasantry participation on the design, enforcement and evaluation of rural policies. It will also seek to explain features of territorial planning and/or ethnic territorial planning ‘from below’ that can be interpreted as alternative solutions to the problem of access to land and, therefore, as social justice agrarian policies. In the context of the armed conflict that has affected the country for 60 years, structures such as the Communitarian Councils (since 1993), some of which turned into peace communities and humanitarian zones, and the Peasant Reserve Zones (since 1994), have also come to be known as ‘peace initiatives with social justice’. Although the existing legal framework and territorial planning do not address the main structural problem or change the agrarian structure of the country, the recognition of these mechanisms by the state as legitimate ways of governing and living inside a territory is a great advance for rural communities and for social processes of resistance.
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Zohanny Arboleda-Mutis, born in the Soviet Union and raised in Colombia, holds a master’s degree from the International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague. She is currently affiliated with CINEP, Popular Education and Research Center, a La Paz-based NGO working on human rights and education as well as research and political advocacy in support of peasants, rural communities and vulnerable social groups. She has conducted research on transitional justice for the Colombian National Commission for Reconciliation and Reparation, as well as on land reform, agrarian policies, and conflicts over land in rural Colombia.
Land Reform in Latin America and the Question
of Social Justice and Peace
In the 1960s, there was a wide interest in solving rural poverty and increasing agricultural production in Latin America. It was supported by a general agreement signed in 1962, in Uruguay, by all American countries, from Canada to Argentina. It was backed by the United States that put in place a support programme named Alliance for Progress. All countries committed themselves to carry out land reform with the intention of terminating large traditional land holdings, which were using backward production methods with a large part of the population outside the industrial markets, thus limiting economic development as a whole.
Land reform was not new in the region. Some countries had already carried out land reform changes, such as Mexico (1940s) and Bolivia (1952), affecting the whole rural property structure. Some countries, after the 1962 agreement, performed partial land reforms. However, among these were three countries where land reforms were carried out in full force in the 1960s, affecting the entire structure of rural society: Venezuela, Chile and Peru, in that order. After the 1980s, land reform was completed and a new rural structure, which was fully integrated into the global economy, emerged in Chile and Peru. In Venezuela, the land reform process became stagnated, production did not increase, beneficiaries felt abandoned by the State and many of them migrated to cities looking for education for their children, who themselves became professionals and part of the modern State bureaucracy over time.
In the meantime, a new breed of medium- and large-sized holdings developed, many in frontier lands. In the year 2000, 40 years after the beginning of the land reforms, and before the lack of productive results in agriculture, the Hugo Chavez government initiated new land reforms. The intention behind this move was to ultimately hand over land to poor people in the countryside in an effort to increase production. Was this process radically different from the previous one? Were the ideological ideas new compared to earlier ones? Are the results as good as expected? These questions, and many related others, will form part of the presentation.
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Rigoberto Rivera, born in Chile, holds a PhD from the Department of Anthropology at Durham University, England, in comparative social studies. He has mainly worked in Chile, Peru, Brazil, Guyana and Venezuela as a researcher and is currently working on processes related to land reform policies on issues such as organisation of peasant producers and large state-managed enterprises. He also has experience working with highland peasant communities in Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela. During most of his professional career, he has dealt exclusively with the topic of land reform and examined in detail the diverse policy approaches of countries such as Chile, Peru, Venezuela and Guyana.
This event is organised in collaboration with Community Self Reliance Centre, Kathmandu.
This is a public programme and admission is free and open to all. Seating is first-come-first-served.
Please direct queries to 4472807.