Unfinished business

Published: Thursday 15 December 2005

When South America's poorest country goes to the presidential polls on December 18, 2005, land reform will be high on its agenda. Left-wing leader Evo Morales, a coca grower and an indigenous leader, has the support of many landless peasants. The Centre for Legal Training and Social Investigation, a social research think-tank, has pointed out that nine years after the enactment of Bolivia's last agrarian reform law, only 17 per cent of the 107 million hectares included in the law have been regularised.

Bolivia has a long history of struggle for land. But land reforms that began in 1953 have remained unfinished. Landholding in the higher plains and the western valleys are typically small while large ranches have come up in the tropical eastern areas. Pablo Regalsky of the Centre for Andean Communication and Development says: "The landless peasants and indigenous people have been calling into question the existing legislation and institutions for their slowness in resolving the problem.

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