Comparative Constitutional Law in Latin America
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Comparative Constitutional Law in Latin America

Edited by Rosalind Dixon and Tom Ginsburg

This book provides unique insights into the practice of democratic constitutionalism in one of the world’s most legally and politically significant regions. It combines contributions from leading Latin American and global scholars to provide ‘bottom up’ and ‘top down’ insights about the lessons to be drawn from the distinctive constitutional experiences of countries in Latin America. In doing so, it also draws on a rich array of legal and interdisciplinary perspectives. Ultimately, it shows both the promise of democratic constitutions as a vehicle for social, economic and political change, and the variation in the actual constitutional experiences of different countries on the ground – or the limits to constitutions as a locus for broader social change.
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Chapter 7: Looking beyond the Constitution: the social and ecological function of property

Helena Alviar Garcia


This chapter explores the structural difficulties faced by progressive reforms aimed at redistributing rural property through constitutional provisions. In different historical periods, legal scholars and activists have placed their faith in constitutional reforms and adjudication to attack rural property concentration in Latin America. The objective of this chapter is to analyze some of the limitations that constitutional law and judicial interpretation have had in Colombia. It argues that redistribution is stalled by the coexistence of different definitions of property; the concentration of public resources for economic development plans that privilege a liberal classical view of growth, property and distribution; existing conflicts between access to land, the right to work and the right to develop enterprises, as well as the contradictions between identities at the margins who may be provided with collective titles to property. In order to delineate the presence of these same contradictions in other contexts, the chapter ends with a short parallel to the Bolivian case.

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