Real Privatization in Bolivia
On a grassy hillside of the Bolivian highlands, on a sunny day in June of this year, hundreds of peasant farmers celebrated two years of liberation. A bullfight, dancing, and food for all. Close, but just out of sight, sat the solitary ruins of the ex-hacienda of Collana — “a sign,” according to the settlement’s own account of their anniversary, “that, here, not even a trace of a patrón (landowner) remains.”
The occupation two years ago of the large private estate, despite many obstacles the participants have faced, is in many ways a success story for the young but growing movement of landless peasants in Bolivia. Families who until 2003 had essentially been indentured servants in Bolivia’s near-feudal countryside are living for the first time on their own terms. “With or without papers, the land was our grandparents’ and now it is ours,” stated Collana leader Dionisio Mamani in a recent article....
The national, 50,000-member-strong Landless Movement (Movimiento Sin Tierra, MST) has led the fight to equalize land ownership in a country where 90 percent of the population owns 7 percent of the cultivatable land, where campesinos (peasant farmers) primarily work as peons for large estates or have been forced to leave the countryside altogether....
Of one estate, in Los Yuquises, Friedsky writes:
The disputed land is on an estate of more than 200,000 acres owned by a well-known businessman with old political links. According to the landless campesinos in Yuquises, estates of this size are common in the region, the majority of the plots having been political gifts to supporters under the right-wing governments of the 1980s and 1990s [emphasis mine].
Of course, only a few of the occupations are comparatively successful. In many cases, local landless movement organizers are assassinated by death squads in the hire of the landed oligarchy. In others, the military evicts occupying peasants.