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Massive land reform passed

Published Dec 8, 2006 10:48 PM

Bolivian President Evo Morales signed into law several progressive measures on Nov. 28, including a bill to reclaim tens of thousands of square kilometers of unproductive land from wealthy farmers.

The law will allow the redistribution of land in the eastern lowlands region to poor landless farmers, and states that land whose use is against the collective interest will be taken without compensation. The Inter Press Service reports that between 60 and 70 percent of the country’s farmland is owned by a handful of families. (Nov. 29)

More than 4,000 Indigenous people had marched on the capital city of La Paz to demand its passage; three died during the march, two of a suspicious car accident, one by lightning.

The measure was passed despite political maneuvering by the opposition parties to block it by boycotting the 27-member Senate, making it impossible to reach the 14-seat quorum needed to meet. However, after Morales threatened to pass the law by presidential decree, three opposition senators returned to the table with the 12 senators from Morales’ Movement Towards Socialism party.

In addition to the land reform bill, contracts were passed with 10 foreign oil companies, in relation to the nationalization of Bolivia’s natural gas reserves; and an economic cooperation agreement with Venezuela was approved. Morales also announced plans for other measures, such as nationalizing Bolivia’s tin and mineral mines.