Essays in Honor of Keith B. Griffin
Edited by James K. Boyce, Stephen Cullenberg, Prasanta K. Pattanaik and Robert Pollin
Chapter 6: Has Columbia Finally Found an Agrarian Reform that Works?
6. Has Colombia finally found an agrarian reform that works? Albert Berry Introduction Like most Latin American countries, Colombia has been characterized by extreme inequality in the distribution of access to agricultural land (CIDA, 1966) and very serious ambiguities around property rights; these related problems have contributed to many other social and economic ills, including most notably the waves of violence which swept the country periodically during the twentieth century and part of the nineteenth.1 There has been periodic recognition of these land issues as serious problems by independent observers, political parties and governments and, on occasion, attempts have been made to ‘reform’ the agrarian structure. Had any of these attempts been successful either in improving the size distribution of landownership or in clarifying land rights in a positive way, Colombia’s currently very unhappy state might be quite different. Several at least half-hearted attempts have been made and one initiative – undertaken in the 1930s – appears to have had the potential for a serious positive impact. Effective land reforms, where achieved, have taken a variety of paths, depending on the nature of the agrarian structure, administrative issues and politics. In cases where there is no feasible way to provide land to those who need it except to expropriate it from current owners (or holders), a serious political confrontation is probable. Most of the effective reforms undertaken under such conditions have been carried out quickly, in spite of possibly high administrative costs,2 some injustice (for example horizontal inequality among former owners)...
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