Peasants in Argentina Find New Ways to Keep their Land
|January 13, 2014||Posted by Staff under Land Disputes|
Following Argentina’s economic crisis in 2001, the country leaned heavily on mining and large-scale agribusiness (especially soy) to reinvigorate its ailing economy. The expansion of these industries requires the accumulation of new lands and the violent displacement of rural communities. Many farmers and indigenous communities don’t have titles to their lands, leaving them vulnerable to displacement or criminal charges for squatting.
Nationally, nearly a quarter of Argentina’s farming families are engaged in some kind of dispute over their land, 64 percent of which began within the last 20 years. There are 857 distinct conflicts over land, affecting 63,843 family farms, covering nearly 23 million acres.
In the past three years 11 farmers and indigenous people have died, all of whom opposed the incursion of large-scale developments on their lands. Some were murdered in cold blood, while others died in mysterious traffic accidents that their families claim were also premeditated.
Six corporations (Cargill, Bunge, Dreyfus, AGD, Vicentín and Molinos Río de la Plata) control 90 percent of soy production and its derivatives, making record profits.
In the neighborhood of Ituzaingó in Córdoba province, the activist group of concerned mothers Las Madres de Ituzaingó claims 500 of the 2,000 residents have reported some form of cancer from pesticides for soy cultivation.
Communal land use for animal grazing, for instance, is crucial to many peasant farmers’ survival. However, the Argentine judicial system does not easily recognize commons and is prone to a lack of political accountability.
Peasant movements like Argentina’s National Peasant and Indigenous Movement (MNCI) are resisting this assault on their lands and fighting to transform the system. These two strategies —- 1) demanding communal land titles and 2) appealing to international human rights instruments for collective territorial rights —- go beyond the typical strategy of occupation in that they seek broader systemic transformation.
Ed. Notes: Such bloody disputes are not uncommon in Latin America. Elsewhere and earlier, they’ve been settled by charging people for claiming land. Then they claimed no more than they could individually use, and huge plantations were broken up. Could Land Dues work again?