Agrarian Reform in Bolivia in the 20th and 21st Centuries
Summary and Keywords
Until the 1950s, the distribution of land in Bolivia, as in the rest of Latin America, was very unequal. But in 1953, a year after the 1952 national revolution, the nationalist revolutionary movement (MNR) enacted a decree on agrarian reform that dismantled feudal haciendas in the western highlands, abolished the system of forced peasant labor, and distributed expropriated lands to peasants. While the decree proved redistributive in the Altiplano and valleys, it ended up creating new concentrations of land in Bolivia’s eastern lowlands. This area, which constituted two thirds of Bolivia’s territory, was home to a number of indigenous groups who were displaced from their lands because of the expansion of latifundio in the second half of the 20th century. In 1996, after pressure from below, the neoliberal government of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (1993–1997) approved a new agrarian law that recognized indigenous rights to collective territory (Tierra Comunitaria de Origen, TCO). In 2006, left-leaning President Evo Morales approved a new agrarian law. Although the new legislation mostly ratified the 1996 law, it established that only indigenous and peasant populations could be granted state lands. Despite this legislation claiming to protect the majority Indian and peasant population, scholars such as Colque, Tinta, and Sanjines note that it was under a neoliberal government, between 1996 to 2006, that much of the process of land distribution favored to indigenous groups of the lowlands, and it was under left-leaning President Evo Morales (from 2010 to the present ) that much of land distribution favored medium and agricultural enterprises. The most important clash between the self-proclaimed indigenous Evo Morales and lowland indigenous groups was in September 2011 when indigenous groups living in the National Park and Indigenous Territory Isiboro Sécure (TIPNIS) protested against the government’s unilateral decision to build a road through their territory. Since 2011 (up to the present, 2018) the tension and political distance between president Morales and his loyal coca-leaf grower supporters—many of whom live on the borders of the park and are invested on the construction of the road—versus the indigenous groups of the lowlands have only grown. Ironically, it seems to be under Morales that key indigenous rights such as the right to prior consultation or the right to consolidate territories (TCOs) seem to be at the most risk.
Agrarian Reform and the Indian Question in the First Decades of the 20th Century
In 1825, when Bolivia was founded as a new republic, the majority of the poulation continued living in ayllus (Indian communities), which constituted about two thirds of all cultivable land. One hundred years later, Indian communities held roughly only one third of cultivable property.1 This attack on Indian collective property was largely the effect of the implementation of liberalism in the countryside. The privatization of land not only stripped Indian communities of their former properties but also pushed a large number of their members to become semi-servant workers (colonos) in the new haciendas.
Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries indigenous leaders fought the illegal expansion of the hacienda system over their lands. In 1899, Indian leader Zarate Willca led one of the largest indigenous rebellions of the 19th century that ended with most of their leaders dying or in jail. Despite this military failure, in the first two decades of the 20th century, Indian communal leaders (called caciques apoderados) organized a broad movement that compiled legal documents to demonstrate they were the legal owners of lands that had violently passed to private landlords.2 Caciques apoderados’ legal demands, political petitions, and networking had some concrete effects. In 1920, President Bautista Saavedra, who led the Junta and had personal contact with many caciques apoderados, prohibited any transfer of communal property to private hands if the transaction did not happen through public auction and special procedures.3
Parallel to these fights from below, since the 1920s radical left-leaning intellectuals started questioning the latifundio system (the concentration of land into large estates) that predominated in the countryside, and the exploitative system of work that colonos (forced peasant labor) faced in the haciendas. Herbert Klein argues that in the 1920s, Bolivian youth started enthusiastically reading Marx and José Carlos Mariategui’s Seven Interpretative Essays on Peruvian Reality published in 1927. In 1926 the University Federation in La Paz proposed that Indians should get their land back from the landlords.4 The most prominent and radical voice of this early movement was Tristan Marof, who led the group Tupaj Amaru.5 The group argued for a revolution that would eliminate latifundio and rural feudal relations. Marof stated: “Indian liberation will only happen when the Indians recover the lands usurped by the whites and the creoles from the colonial period to the present.”6
In the early 1930s, the lengthiest study on agrarian reform was the one published by Alfredo Sanjinés, who served as ambassador to Mexico.7 Sanjinés believed that stagnation in agriculture was one of Bolivia’s major problems. He suggested that Bolivia should follow the latest tendencies in agrarian legislation in Europe and Latin America—where ownership of land was subject to the fulfillment of a “social function.”8 Sanjinés avoided referring to Mexico specifically, though it is clear that his approach was influenced by the debates going on over the Mexican Constitution and the well-known Article 27 that granted the state property rights over land and water during his tenure there. However, Klein points out that these radical ideals were only embraced by a minor group of intellectuals and had a limited impact on the mainstream political parties.9
The Chaco War (1932–1935) between Bolivia and Paraguay silenced much of this budding political debate over the land system. President Daniel Salamanca (1931–1934) suppressed labor unions and left-leaning intellectuals, and cracked down on indigenous leaders. After a devastating defeat in the war, a large number of veterans—many of them indigenous, who had been dragged to fight for the country—returned home, critical not only of the leaders they blamed for Bolivia’s defeat, but also of the economic and political model that had systematically excluded them. This was the context in which a number of anti-oligarchic left and nationalist political parties emerged: the Trotskyist (Partido Obrero Revolutionario, POR), the left (Partido de Izquierda Revolucionaria, PIR), and the nationalist (Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario, MNR).10
In 1938, the self-proclaimed military socialist President Germán Busch (1937–1939) seized power. He called a constitutional Convention to revise the liberal constitution that had structured the country since 1880. Klein argues this was an extraordinary event because it gathered representatives from the ultra-conservative oligarchy together with members of the working class and quasi-communists who held positions in public offices for the first time.11 It was in the context of the Convention that the agrarian question was subject to fierce debate in congress. Unlike in the 1920s, when discussion of the agrarian question was limited to a few left intellectuals and some university federations, the 1938 Convention brought that discussion to the national parliament. Representatives Gregorio Balcazar, Eguino Zaballa, Victor Paz Estenssoro, and Walter Guevara Arce proposed that the new constitution should require that landed property fulfill a “social function.”12 This principle, following the example of Mexico’s social constitutionalism, challenged Bolivia’s 1880 constitution. After an intense debate the proposal was approved, dealing a hard blow to rural landholders.13
Representatives Paz Estenssoro and Guevara Arze (and future MNR leaders) proposed dismantling the latifundio system. The first believed that latifundios (unproductive estates) should be expropriated and divided among peasants; the second proposed that, instead of dividing the property, latifundios should be turned into communities protecting the collectivization of agriculture.14 Both proposals were severely criticized. Representatives from the departments in the east of the country (which corresponds to Bolivia’s lowlands) empathically denied that Bolivia’s problem was the lack of land.15 They argued: “there is plenty of land in Bolivia, we do not have the resources to colonize and make the vast lowlands suitable for agriculture.”16 Conservative congressman Bilbao Llano stated that private properties in the Altiplano were under constant threat. He stated: “Our courts are packed . . . of conflicts of limits between private owners and comunarios because the latter are constantly menacing the borders of private property.”17 Despite these responses that show how hard it was to discuss the question of latifundio in the country, the 1938 constitution included some significant changes. The new constitution approved the principle of land expropriation for public utility in exchange for compensation. Nonetheless, the convention also expressed the political limits of the age. Left intellectuals criticized the landlords’ unproductive possession of land, but they remained skeptical about redistributing it to the indigenous population whom they considered socially, culturally, and economically backward. Even President Busch and the most progressive politicians spoke about the need for the “rehabilitation” and “civilization” of indigenous people. It was also common to think of the agrarian question and indigenous question as two different problems: the first referred primarily to mechanization, productivity, and colonization; the second to education and civilization.18
Unable to deal with mounting political pressure, the young President Germán Busch committed suicide in 1938. After the collapse of his government, conservative Presidents Carlos Quintanilla (1939–1940) and Enrique Peñaranda (1940–1943) strived to dismantle many of Busch’s reforms. Peñaranda prohibited peasants from unionizing in the countryside.19 Having embraced the political view that Bolivia’s land problem was not the scarcity of land but the need to expand the agricultural frontier, Peñaranda started one of the country’s first colonization efforts. The project involved transplanting peasants from the valleys and highlands of Cochabamba to the Chapare region in 1942.
Despite Peñaranda’s attempts to suppress peasant political activism, landlords across the countryside reported generalized sit-down strikes in the early 1940s.20 Landlords in Oruro complained that colonos sabotaged production by refusing to fulfill their obligations. Gotkowitz argues peasants were protesting the excessive duties they were subject to in the haciendas and that they demanded local authorities enforce the new laws passed in favor of the peasantry.21 President Peñaranda responded by exiling peasant leaders “who were inflaming the ‘indiada’” (a condescending term for the indigenous population) to the recently created penal colonies of Coati, Todos Santos, and Ichilo.22
This state conciliatory politics toward the rural elite and repressive toward the colonos changed drastically after Colonel Gualberto Villarroel’s coup d’état in December of 1943. Villarroel convened 1,200 indigenous representatives from across the country to the First National Indigenous Congress in May 1945 so they could discuss the problems they faced in the countryside. Historian Laura Gotkowitz argues that this was an unusual event for Latin America.23 It was the first time that an indigenous congress brought indigenous leaders to debate and present their own demands—rather than intellectuals or artists, as was the case of the Indigenista Congress in Patzcuaro (Mexico).
The government tried to restrict most of the debate at the congress to the colonos’ working conditions on haciendas. Villarroel’s agenda paid little attention to indigenous communities’ demands for the government to reexamine the legality of the landlords’ current rural property, which they claimed was illegally usurped over the prior decades. Villarroel’s reluctance to consider demands of the comunarios (members of an indigenous community) to nullify fraudulent sales is striking when we consider that caciques apoderados were crying out against the dispossession of their lands, not only in local courts, but even in the national congress24 and in national newspapers. Instead, the government hoped, in the short term, to use the congress to help force landholders to pay the colonos for their services, and in the long term, to devise an agrarian labor code that would regulate the relationship between landowners and workers.
At the conclusion of the Indigenous Congress, the government signed three decrees that recapitulated Villarroel’s agenda on the Indian question. Among the most important points, these three decrees stated: First, colonos would not be forced to execute any services other than agricultural tasks, unless landlords and colonos agreed to some form of fair economic compensation beforehand. All personal services, such as pongueaje (obligatory unpaid domestic service), mitinaje (women’s unpaid domestic service), and the delivery of goods to the city, spinning, sale of products in the market, or mukeo (chewing corn to prepare chicha) were forbidden unless landlords paid fair economic compensation. Second, colonos owned their harvest. They could use it or sell as it at their disposal. Third, landlords could not force colonos to pay property taxes. Fourth, landlords or hacienda administrators could not use physical violence against colonos. And, fifth, landlords had to install schools for colonos’ offspring on their properties.25
At the same time, the decrees imposed serious punishment against those peasants involved in subversive activities. Decree 318 established that peasant leaders could not collect economic contributions from their fellows to campaign against landlords within the haciendas. Peasants involved in such political subversive activities (agitación política) would be removed from the hacienda and lose access to their plot. They could also be relocated to one of the colonies (lowlands) installed by the Ministry of Agriculture. This was technically confinement.26 Thus, the Congress addressed “the abolition of peonage, unpaid personal service, creation of rural schools in haciendas and communities, the definition of the obligations and duties amongst patrons to Indians and other questions of lesser importance,” but avoided dealing with the fundamental issue—the “land question.”
Although the formal agenda of Villarroel’s government silenced indigenous demands for land, Gotkowitz argues that the Indigenous Congress allowed indigenous leaders to articulate their interests and claims to the land in a new way.27 She argues that the language of “Indians rights” promoted by the government and officially sanctioned by central authorities was a powerful mobilizer for the more than 1,200 indigenous leaders who returned to their communities to confront the abuses of landholders and local authorities in the name of the law.
The 1952 National Revolution and the First Agrarian Reform
In 1946, a coalition of right- and left-wing parties overthrew the nationalist president Gualberto Villarroel. This represented one of the most violent efforts of mining and landowner elites (with the unusual support of the left against a nationalist regime) to regain political power. Although the resulting conservative presidents, Tomás Monje Gutierrez (1946–1947), Enrique Hertzog (1947–1949), and Mamerto Urrolagoitia (1949–1951), did not dare to repeal Villarroel’s 1945 decrees, all of them cracked down on peasant leaders’ attempts to actually implement these decrees in the countryside. Laura Gotkowitz has deepened our understanding of the resulting indigenous rebellion that began in 1946–1947 following Villarroel’s overthrow. Indigenous uprisings spread across the Altiplano in the departments of La Paz, Oruro, the west of Cochabamba, and North Potosi. In order to pacify the country, president Hertzog sent troops to arrest, confine, and even torture hundreds of peasant leaders, as well as leaders of the Workers Federation (FOL), who allegedly supported and gave weapons to the peasants, and members of the POR and the MNR parties who had supported Villarroel’s regime.28
President Mamerto Urrolagoitia, who still wanted to keep up the facade of democracy in the country, called for elections in 1951. Despite restrictions that limited voting to literate men, which excluded most of the indigenous population, and the exile of many MNR members, the MNR still won the elections. But rather than transfer power to Víctor Paz Estenssoro, the leader of the MNR, Urrolagoitia inflicted a coup d’état on his own government and granted power to the army. About a year later, in April 1952, a three-day popular insurrection led by armed worker militias defeated the army and overthrew the military junta headed by General Hugo Ballivián. MNR leader Hernán Siles Zuazo took provisional power and then granted the presidency to Víctor Paz Estenssoro, who was exiled in Buenos Aires. The MNR governed Bolivia for twelve years until another military coup led by General René Barrientos toppled the government.
MNR leader Víctor Paz Estenssoro was politically moderate. In the face of popular demands petitioning mine nationalization or agrarian reform, Paz Estenssoro answered that such matters needed further study.29 In terms of agrarian reform, immediately, after the revolution, the MNR rushed to implement the decrees that Villarroel had approved in 1945. The government hoped that the reinstitution of Villarroel’s decrees would protect colonos’ working conditions on the haciendas and would restore order in the countryside. Since May of 1952, the government promoted the signing of labor contracts between landlords and colonos under the supervision of the Ministry of Peasant Affairs. The MNR’s initial program on agrarian reform hoped to guarantee better working conditions for the colonos without challenging the core structure of property in the countryside. This early project of turning colonos into proletarians was successfully implemented in Yungas, in the valleys of Cochabamba, Tarija, Chuquisaca, and in some haciendas of the Altiplano for about two years after the revolution, until peasants stubbornly refused to sign new contracts or to share the harvest with the landholders and pressured the government to order expropriation.30
The MNR’s labor reforms had a very limited impact in the countryside. By the end of 1952, reports on political mobilization in the countryside only grew and many local reports argued that peasants were increasingly detaching from the MNR’s political agenda, which focused solely on labor reform.31 In January 1953, President Paz Estenssoro called for a multi-party and multi-sector commission to analyze and draft a law for agrarian reform. After four months of intense work, on August 2, 1953, he signed a historic decree in the rural town of Ucureña in front of one hundred thousand peasants. The decree abolished all forms of servitude and forced peasant labor, obligated landowners to pay salaries in exchange of any type of work, and ordered the expropriation of all latifundios (large unproductive estates) among their colonos. Jane Benton summarizes the six fundamental objectives of the Agrarian Reform Decree: “To allot cultivable land to the campesinos who do not have any, or have very little, expropriating for this purpose the lands which latifundistas have in excess; to restore indigenous communities the lands usurped (after 1900); to free campesino workers from their condition as serfs; to stimulate greater productivity and commercialization of the agricultural industry; to conserve the country’s natural resources; and, to promote internal migration . . . excessively concentrated in the inter Andean-zone.”32
The decree carefully defined the maximum limit of a small and medium-size estate for the highlands, valleys, subtropical, and tropical regions. Because of Bolivia’s striking geographical differences, those definitions varied considerably: while the maximum of a small-size estate in the wine-growing areas was set to 3 hectares, in the dry area of Chaco (closer to border with Paraguay) it was 80 hectares. One of the most important premises for implementing the agrarian reform was that Bolivia had vast, uncultivated, and uninhabited territories in the north and east of the country. Because of this, the decree could comfortably assert that “all Bolivians over age of eighteen, regardless of their sex, who dedicated themselves to agricultural pursuits, or who wished to do so, would after due process of law, be allocated land.”33 Based on this rule, the decree established that former colonos who, after the expropriation of the large estates, did not have access to sufficient land, would be compensated with land in the northeastern areas under colonization (this term indicates the occupation of the largely uninhabited north and east of the country).
Although the iconic Supreme Decree 3464 was the first and most important regulation on agrarian reform, it was only the first of many other decrees that over the years would redefine the contours of the process of agrarian reform. Many of these new laws obscured if not contradicted the initial spirit of the 1953 law. For instance, in 1955 Paz Estenssoro decreed that latifundios of the north and east of the country were not subject to expropriation. Landlords could sell the portion of their properties that exceeded the maximum limit of the medium-sized landholding.34 This important but unnoticed decree limited the impact of the 1953 agrarian reform to the Andes and the valleys, excluding Oriente (the lowlands), which constitutes about 65 percent of Bolivia’s territory.
The actual implementation of the 1953 agrarian reform decree in the countryside took years and in some cases decades. According to the decree, each demand for land expropriation (or even consolidation of a small-sized property) had to follow at least four stages and face three verdicts. First, the plaintiffs (usually the former colonos of a hacienda organized in one agrarian union) had to present a demand for land expropriation to a local rural council, an office in charge of collecting all relevant information about the case: name of the owner, size of the property, quality of the soil, productivity, investment, and system of work. With this crucial information, a local agrarian judge would hand down a first verdict. Then, in the city of La Paz, the president of the National Council of Agrarian Reform (CNRA) provided a second verdict based on a new technical evaluation; and then finally, the Minister of Peasant Affairs—with the signature of the President—gave a third and last verdict endorsing or reversing the previous decisions. At every legal stage, claimants and defendants could present objections and new evidence to change the agrarian authorities’ verdicts. This procedure guaranteed that every demand received careful consideration from both local and national authorities. However, the same procedure soon became a bottleneck that delayed hundreds of land demands for years, and in some cases even for decades.35
The MNR took a moderate position in the conflict on agrarian reform.36 MNR leaders assured medium-sized landowners that expropriation would only target large unproductive estates. They guaranteed that the government would protect the property rights of those who could prove investment, personal involvement, and production oriented to the market—the signs of modern agricultural development.37
Despite the MNR’s assurances, analysis of the agrarian court cases shows that peasants sought and found ways around these apparent protections for landlords. They demanded expropriation of the properties where they served as colonos, whether or not the properties fit within the parameters for property size, investment, and productivity allowed by law.38 In their petitions for land expropriation, the strategy of peasants was to emphasize the landlords’ labor practices of pongueaje and colonato prior to the revolution. Since unremunerated servile labor was banned by the agrarian reform decree, peasants urged the government to grant them the whole property even if it was a productive estate, one in which the owners had invested capital, or one that fell within allowable size. Claims about abusive working conditions and the absence of salaries became pivotal points in fighting back against the landlords in the courts. For their part, the landlords (who lost most of their political power after the revolution) saw the courts as their last opportunity to consolidate and retain at least a portion of their former properties using—and stretching—the parameters of size and investment inscribed in the law.
The actual implementation of the 1953 Agrarian Reform Decree took place in local and national courts, where landlords and colonos drew upon different legal and technical criteria established in the agrarian reform decree to demand the government “enforce the law.” In other words, the law was not a rigidly enforced set of principles. Rather, in the hands of different actors, the law became an effective instrument with which to pressure state officials and to shape their decisions. In the politically mobilized Altiplano, successful cases for land redistribution illustrate the power of the peasant unions to pressure state authorities to consolidate their access to land, regardless of the landlord’s compliance.
In November 1964, General René Barrientos overthrew President Paz Estenssoro, ending twelve years of MNR rule. Barrientos’s coup d’état launched a sequence of military regimes that lasted until 1982, when the country returned to democracy. When studying peasants’ relationships to and with the state, authors such as Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui and Xavier Albó have underscored the peasants’ subordinated relation to the MNR that deepened under the military.39 General Barrientos, charismatic and fluent in Quechua, forged a peasant-military pact in 1966 to ensure peasant loyalty to the state. According to Albó, under Barrientos, “peasantry was largely pacified and transformed into a veritable conservative battering ram, available for periodic deployment against the rebellious miners.”40 Yet, this narrative overlooks one of the peasants’ most important achievements: neither General Barrientos nor the even more conservative and authoritarian Colonel Hugo Bánzer (1971–1978) challenged peasants’ right to land. Instead, these military leaders insisted they were continuing the principles of the nationalist revolution by protecting the achievements won through the agrarian reform.
Barrientos, eager to legitimize his government and to portray himself as an upholder of revolutionary nationalism, enacted a new constitution in 1967 that reasserted the principles of the 1952 national revolution. The new constitution ratified the abolition of the latifundio and highlighted that land should have a social function.41 Moreover Barrientos dismissed the petitions of former landlords who wrote to the president hoping that the military regime would help them regain their lands.42 As it became clear that Barrientos’s government would not revisit previous verdicts, those landlords who had been able to consolidate a portion of their former properties after the agrarian reform sold these remaining lands to their former colonos.43 As these transfers grew, by the late 1970s the few landlords in particular in the Altiplano who had not sold their estates found it increasingly difficult to keep their property, as illustrated by the following court case that started in Omasuyos Province. In 1978, a former landlord Carlos Terrazas, who was able to consolidate a 58 hectare medium sized property out of the 955 hectares he had before the agrarian reform, insisted that peasants who had never worked for him as his colonos in the past were illegally seizing his plots. Terrazas claimed that it would be illegal to redistribute this land again, as it had already been subject to expropriation after 1953.44 In response, the leader of the peasant union declared that those lands had been abandoned for about fifteen years. The peasants argued that, following the principles of the reform, the government should grant land to those who worked on it.45 The dispute lasted almost ten years in the courts, ending only when President Paz Estenssoro (who returned to power in 1985) ordered the expropriation, as the peasants had demanded.46
The History of the Lowlands and the Second Agrarian Reform
The 1953 agrarian reform had a redistributive impact in the valleys and the highlands of Bolivia. However, its effects were very different in the Oriente (the plains and the amazon that constitute about than sixty percent of Bolivia’s territory) (see figure 1). The policy of the MNR in the Oriente was similar to the colonizing mentality of the 19th and early 20th century governments. Like their predecessors, MNR leaders thought of the lowlands as empty, with only “savages” living in this extended area. Article 129 of the 1953 Supreme Decree on agrarian reform reads: “the primitive (selvícolas) groups who live in a wild state and held primitive organization, remain under the protection of the state.”47
In the 1950s, the MNR encouraged the migration of peasants from the highlands to the lowlands. MNR’s program on colonization continued the same policies that began in the early 1940s.48 However, it was in the 1970s and 1980s, under the military regimes of General Hugo Bánzer Suárez and Luis García Meza, that the government widely used land concessions to pay back political favors, which ended up promoting a new process of concentrating land (latifundio). Anthropologist Nancy Postero argues that General Bánzer Suárez awarded large land concessions to individuals and agribusiness—almost 10 million hectares in Santa Cruz alone.49
On top of these large concessions of land, since 1986 hundreds of miners who lost their jobs because of the politics of privatization moved to Chapare in the Department of Cochabamba to cultivate the profitable commodity of coca leaves.50 These distinct politics of land occupation by lodging companies, former mine-workers, and ranchers in Oriente displaced indigenous groups, many of them nomadic, from their original territories. To stop the ongoing displacement, these indigenous groups organized a confederation named Central de Pueblos y Comunidades Indígenas del Oriente Boliviano (CIDOB) in 1982.51 Initially, they demanded the full implementation of the 1953 agrarian reform in the area.52 They claimed that the effects of the agrarian reform never reached Oriente, and they asked for plots of land such as the ones the peasants in the highlands had received.
The CIDOB’s initial agenda soon became outdated. In 1984, instead of asking for plots (or parcels) of land, the CIDOB demanded the recognition of territories. Changes in their agenda took place after some of their representatives participated in international congresses that addressed indigenous demands from a distinct political agenda such as the: Ninth Inter-American Indian Congress, the First Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon Basin Congress (COICA), and the International Labor Organization meeting. Salvador Puig, studying the emergence of the indigenous movements across Latin America in 1990s, argues that the Catholic Church, the protestant church, anthropologists, and NGOs created a window of opportunity for these local movements when they gave them the possibility to express their demands at the international level.53
Initially, the CIDOB found very little reception for their demands at the national level. However, in 1990 they organized the First March for Territory and Dignity, where they walked from the city of Trinidad to La Paz over thirty-two days. The march had a powerful impact on national politics. First, it turned indigenous peoples of the lowlands, and the CIDOB, into a major political actor at the national level. Second, the march forced President Jaime Paz Zamora (1989–1993) to sign three decrees guarantying indigenous peoples the right to hold territories.54 Third, anthropologists Ramiro Molina and Ricardo Calla argue that the march deeply challenged the monoculture foundations of the state. Indigenous groups claimed for recognition of a distinct ethnic identity, rather than claiming solely a class identity, and they claimed recognition for their collective rights rather than individual rights.55 The march coincided—at the international level—with the signature of 169 International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention on indigenous peoples’ rights. The 169 Convention encouraged states to respect indigenous territories and to protect indigenous collective identity.56 In the wake of this political effervescence, Bolivia ratified the convention in 1992.
Indigenous demands emerged in Bolivia at a time of profound institutional crisis for the National Council of Agrarian Reform (CNRA). News about corruption in the process of land titling and the illegal appropriation of land packed the local newspapers. In 1992, Congressman Miguel Urioste, director of Fundación Tierra, an NGO that specialized in land and rural development, exposed the Minister of Education for using his political power to grant himself a large property in Santa Cruz.57 In response to these charges of corruption and the ongoing political mobilization from below, President Paz Zamora seized the offices of the CNRA, stopped all land titling, and called for the drafting of a new agrarian law.58
Official discussion about the new law started in 1995 under the neoliberal president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. He called on the three most important rural actors (and their organizations) to draft a new law: agribusiness (CAINCO), the indigenous groups of the lowlands (CIDOB) the peasant communities of the highlands (CSUTCB).59 The government’s initial proposal was to create a new rural registry to create a free market of land. However, none of these three actors sympathized with the project. Many landlords who illegally acquired land in the 1970s and 1980s opposed the project because they knew that a revision of their land titles could result in them losing their properties. Landlords who held their properties legally feared the state would raise taxes. They also feared land could be reverted to the state if they were not able to fulfill the standards of Economic and Social Function (FES) required by law to all rural properties.60
Indigenous and peasant groups of the highlands and lowlands argued that the law constituted the most serious attempt to privatize land, a process they argued threatened the poorest sectors of society. But beyond this general critique, each group had their own specific demands. The CIDOB demanded the legal recognition of sixteen indigenous territories while the CSUTCB, and in particular the colonizadores (migrant peasants from the highlands living in the lowlands), demanded state recognition for the plots of land they had being occupying for the last decade. In the first stage of negotiations, colonizadores and indigenous groups allied against the government and the agribusiness sector.61 However, this initial alliance felt apart when the CIDOB realized that the government was more receptive to their demands than the ones from CSUTCB.62
After eighteen months of intense negotiation, the government enacted a new law on agrarian reform in October 1996.63 The so-called INRA law recognized indigenous territories (Tierra Comunitaria de Origen, TCO) for the first time, in Bolivia’s history. The success of the CIDOB was also in part due to the work of the network of NGOs and international organizations that were lobbying for the recognition of indigenous land rights.64 It is important to note that this network of NGOs supported a specific image of the “Indian” (members of indigenous groups of the lowlands) that ignored the demands of other marginalized groups like the migrants peasants from the highlands.65
Agribusiness also gained important concessions, as they were able to limit some of the government’s initial proposals. For example, the final draft dismissed reversion for ecological damage and it eliminated taxes on productivity, two proposals that the government sought to include in the first draft of the law. But most importantly, the law allowed landlords to legalize the properties they illegally had acquired in the 1970s and 1980s. They could do that if they demonstrated they were working and producing on the land.66 Peasants and colonizadores were the big losers in this negotiation. Despite their marches and protest in the streets, they left La Paz with none of their claims included in the new law.67
The government set up a plan of ten years to implement the law (1996–2006). However, in 2006, the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA) reported that they were only able to title 11 percent of the territory. Nonetheless, the result of this initial process was very revealing. Sixty-four percent of that land (about 8 million hectares) was granted to indigenous groups as TCOs.68 The systematic work of the CIDOB and the allied network of NGOs working in and outside the country that provided the budget to advance the cause of indigenous land rights explains the result.
Agrarian reform was probably the single most important political debate of the 20th and 21st century in Bolivia, and will probably continue to be one of the hottest topics of debate in the following decades. Both the 1953 and 1996 agrarian reform laws had very redistributive effects. The first one guarantied land to thousands of peasants and indigenous communities in the highlands, and the second guarantied territories to indigenous communities in the lowlands. Both laws compensated the indigenous majority for historical abuses. However, while the first agrarian reform opened the door to illegal appropriation of land in Oriente, the second one offered illicit landlords the possibility to legally consolidate their properties. It is also important to consider that the beneficiaries of the agrarian reform do not necessarily coincide with the alleged political ideology of the current government. As Colque, Tinta, and Sanjinés show, it was between 1996 and 2006, under a neoliberal government, that indigenous groups consolidated more territory, while under Evo Morales more land has been granted to agribusiness.69
Agrarian Reform under President Evo Morales
In 2005 Evo Morales, a left-leaning leader who came from the coca-growers (cocalero) movement, came into power. His anti-capitalist and environmentalist rhetoric gained him the support of many different sectors of Bolivian society: the left, the indigenous groups of the highlands and lowlands, peasants, and colonizadores. In 2006, Morales enacted a new land law called “Ley de Reconducción Comunitaria, 3545,” in order, he said, to deepen the effects of the agrarian reform in Bolivia. The new law introduced some significant changes to the prior INRA law. First, it substituted the term TIOC for TCO. The new term (Territorio Indígena Originario Campesino) merged indigenous groups of the lowlands and highlands with colonizadores in ways the old term Tierra Comunitaria de Origen did not. The new term rectified the exclusion of the colonizadores from the law of 1996. Second, the law determined that, from now on, all petitions for concessions of state-controlled land (called in Bolivia tierra fiscal), would be exclusively granted to TIOCs.70 With this legal change, the government wanted to secure that all future concessions of state-controlled land will solely favor Indians’ and peasants’ collective demands for land instead of private petitioners.
Despite its early promise, the alliance between indigenous groups and colonizadores fell apart in 2011 when the Morales government announced the construction of a road across the National Park and Indigenous Territory Isiboro Sécure (TIPNIS) to connect Villa Tunari (Department of Cochabamba) with San Ignacio de Moxos (Department of Beni). Indigenous groups denounced the government’s unilateral decision to build the road, claiming that it violated the constitutional principle of Previous Consultation (a fundamental right that ethnic groups have over policies or projects to be carried out in their territories). Indigenous groups complained that the road would harm the fragile ecosystem of the park and would ultimately only benefit the cocaleros who lived on the border of the park, and who were constantly invading the limits of the park.
The conflict had striking national and international repercussions. Environmentally friendly international organizations that previously had supported President Evo Morales harshly criticized his policies. Many questioned the contradiction between Morales’s discourse about protecting the rights of Mother Nature and his practices: shutting down the protests of the indigenous groups who were against the construction of the road.71 After TIPNIS, it became impossible for the government to proclaim that they were governing with the support of all indigenous groups.
After 2011, the government openly sided with the cocaleros. For example, Alejandro Almaraz, former Vice-minister of Land, and one of the harshest opponents of the government after the TIPNIS conflict, denounced the government for assuming truly anti-indigenous positions. In a meeting between the government and social movements (mainly colonizadores),72 Almaraz charged that the government had agreed: 1) to revise the amount of land that previous governments had given to indigenous groups of the lowlands, 2) to determine if the amount of hectares granted truly corresponded to their needs (or if they were larger than what they actually needed), and 3) to block new demands for TCOs.73
Debates about TIPNIS almost disappeared from public debate after 2012 until July 2017, when the government resurrected the road project. In this new season of debates, the Minister of Presidency, René Martinez, argued—in the name of Mother Earth—that Bolivians could not leave Beni, one of the largest departments in the nation, disconnected (without roads) from the rest of the country. He argued that the road would benefit indigenous peoples living in the park and added: “we cannot leave indigenous communities isolated, with no access to education, or no access to health.”74 Such arguments show how far the government has moved from their initial political positions.75
The conflict about TIPNIS is, in reality, just the tip of the iceberg, for it reflects a larger conflict that involves three actors with distinct political interests: the agricultural export sector, the indigenous communities, and the increasing population of colonizadores. Although the TIPNIS got the most media attention, similar conflicts have arisen across the rest of the country, some of them specifically pitting indigenous groups against colonizadores. In 2007, sixty-seven Quechua migrant communities protested the state granting seventeen indigenous Leco communities 238.162 hectares in the first stage of their process for a demand for a TCO. Migrants complained that if the state granted the Lecos their full demand of 654.000 hectares that would mean that the seventeen Leco communities would get 80 percent of the territory while sixty-nine communities of colonizadores would hold only 20 percent of the land.76 Carlos Sotomayor, a specialist on the Leco conflict, argues that since the approval of the INRA law in 1996, colonizadores have started perceiving the indigenous groups of the lowlands as becoming the new landlords.77
TIPNIS also reflects a type of conflict that goes beyond Bolivian borders. All left-leaning governments that emerged in 2000s in Latin America struggled with very similar conflicts. Despite their initial radical and environmentally friendly discourses, no government seemed able to find an alternative to extractivism (road building, hydroelectric power plants, oil, mining, lodging, etc.). The need for immediate revenues rather than long-term planning continue to guide public policy.78
Discussion of the Literature
Studies on Bolivian agrarian reform in the 1950s tended to focus on President Paz Estenssoro’s agrarian reform decree of August 2, 1953. Many of these studies–promoted by the MNR itself–consisted of analysis of the law and did not explore the actual implementation of the reform.79 In a different vein from these legalistic works, researchers in the 1960s showed a growing concern with the ability of the agrarian reform to change existing social, economic, and political structures in the countryside. The work of the Land Tenure Center (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and the Research Institute for the Study of Man (RISM, Columbia University) reflected this tendency. Despite their different frameworks—some works concentrated on specific case studies of haciendas (large estates) or regions, and some focused on comparative analysis between regions—many of these authors concluded that tradition continued to carry great weight in the countryside, and that social change was limited.80 This literature offered a much richer portrayal of Bolivian rural society than did the one merely focused on the legal features of the agrarian reform. However, as much of this work was concerned with a rural transition to modernity, it tended to pay little attention to peasants’ own goals and own disputes over the agrarian reform.
Although debates on agrarian reform tended to decline in the 1980s, one of the critical debates that drove Bolivian literature on agrarian reform for the second half of the 20th century was: “who owned the reform?” The MNR’s proclaimed it was the party and its leaders who led the agrarian reform. Almost a decade after the revolution, Richard Patch argued that the agrarian reform was not the result of MNR government initiatives, but of intense social pressure from below. According to Patch, peasants organized the first unions in the valleys of Cochabamba. After the revolution, they began seizing large estates and redistributing land among union members, and this movement expanded through the valleys and the high plateau, forcing the government to decree land reform one year after the MNR took power. Patch did not see a generalized peasant movement prior to the revolution, but he emphasized the particular history of peasants in Ucureña (the valleys of Cochabamba). This view gained momentum a decade later with the work of Jorge Dandler who highlighted the role of political mediators (teachers and left party activists) in the formation of the first peasant unions a decade before the revolution. For Dandler, it was the Trotskyist party (POR) and the left party (PIR) who led this early process of peasants’ political organization, rather than the MNR.81
These works challenged the MNR’s self-proclaimed role in leading the agrarian reform and bestowing land upon Indians. They offered a denser depiction of the political dynamics during the revolution and widened the view beyond the more traditional narrative, which mainly focused on law, presidential speeches, and the iconic moment of August 2, 1953 when President Paz Estenssoro signed the agrarian reform decree. While they enriched our vision beyond the merely top-down perspective of the revolution that the MNR promoted, these studies limited their framing of political action to the activities of the peasant unions. By tying politics solely to the union structure, these scholars made other peasant and Indian organizations invisible.
Beginning in the early 1980s—though at a remove from the debates over the Bolivian revolution and the agrarian reform—Bolivian scholars began exploring peasant and Indian political struggles since the late 19th century more deeply. Scholars such as Silvia Rivera, Roberto Choque, and Esteban Ticona began to uncover silenced accounts of Indian and peasant struggles. Their work depicted indigenous communities with significant political agendas throughout the first half of the 20th century.82 Ramiro Condarco Morales had already revealed in the 1960s that the powerful Indian mobilization led by Pablo Zárate Wilka in 1899 was a response to the expansion of large estates.83 Though this indigenous mobilization was crushed, Silvia Rivera pointed out that Indians continued organizing to stop landowners’ expansion. After the 1910s, a network of Indian leaders known as caciques-apoderados battled landlords in the courts by presenting titles conferred by the Spanish Crown to demonstrate community ownership of the land. This major legal struggle contributed to Indians leaders’ first connections with urban workers’ organizations and more progressive members of the Republican Party.
Laura Gotkowitz’s work exploring the widespread rural struggles between 1880 and 1952 relocated peasant and Indian politics to the center of national debate and illustrated how they gave shape to the coming 1952 revolution. Gotkowitz showed that this long cycle of mobilization involving legal struggle as well as direct action challenged not only previous conceptions that gave Indians and peasants a marginal political role in the revolution, but also those traditional narratives that saw the revolution as a three-day urban insurrection. With this broader context, the 1952 national revolution cannot be considered the sole factor for explaining Bolivia’s transformations during the 20th century.84
The most recent works that have reengaged with the question about peasant political mobilization at the time of the revolution are the works of Jose Gordillo and Waskar Ari, who see the role of the peasant unions in very distinct ways.85 Gordillo challenges the notion that peasant unionization was the product of top-down policies. He argues that peasant union leaders in the valleys of Cochabamba showed greater independence from the party and in fact used the framework of the union to assert their own demands. For his part, Ari revives Rivera’s arguments to argue that unionization constitutes one of the most refined political instruments for racial assimilation in the countryside. He underscores how Bolivian agrarian reform was the outcome of a top-down policy encouraged by MNR-state unions apparatus. When referring to MNR’s nationalist project, Ari argues: “as integration became official state policy, indigenous communities had to shift, at least in legal terms, from being Indians to being peasants, and accept a process of domestication that the new elite had designed from the top down.”86
To track the process of the 1990s agrarian reform in Bolivia, Fundación Tierra offers a number of systematic studies specialized on topics such as land distribution, autonomy and indigenous rights, and food sovereignty. See also CIPCA and CEDLA publications. To track the specific legal battles of indigenous groups of the lowlands in their fight to consolidate their territories see Journal Artículo Primero.87 Several scholars have looked at the emergence of the indigenous groups of the lowlands as major political actors in the 1990s and their fight to consolidate their territory, political participation, and autonomy.88 Recently, much of the debate on agrarian reform looks at the flagrant contradictions between the discourse of left-leaning president Evo Morales and his policies so favorable to the agribusiness sector. See the works Nancy Postero, Jeffery Webber, Gonzalo Colque, Tinta, and Sanjines, and Ximena Aramayo, Marc Devisscher Leroux et al., and Diego Pacheco.89
In 1996 the Bolivian government enacted a new law on agrarian reform. In order to implement it, the government ordered the organization of the Agrarian Reform Archives to centralize the information of the process that started in the 1950s. Today, these archives—virtually untouched by scholars until now—are accessible at the Institute of Land Reform (INRA) for every department in Bolivia. They offer an unprecedented view of decades of agrarian reform. The case records start in the 1950s and many end in the present, as all properties after the 1990s are subject to titling. Every trial is also a powerful illustration of the contrast between state proposals and actual state attempts to enforce its laws. Although many of the court cases started in the 1950s, the history continues up to the present.
In the Bolivian National Archive (ABNB) there are two collections that help researchers gain a view of debates in the 20th century at the national level. First, the Presidential Correspondence (PR) collection gathers letters and requests from all sectors of the society, including many from peasant leaders, indigenous communities, and landowners. The letters offer an insightful look at the proposals, demands, pledges, or political discussions that exceeded the frame of the political party debates or the voice of the recognized leaders. They depict ordinary people from rural and urban backgrounds and their concepts about the revolution, demands concerning land redistribution, and views on what was considered fair or legal. Second, Walter Guevara Arze (WGA), one of the most important MNR leaders, donated his private documents to the national archive. His collection on the agrarian reform gathers private letters, official reports, and internal debates about land at the time of the revolution. Also the ABNB has a wide collection of political pamphlets, political party programs, conference proceedings, and memoires published throughout the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s by different political parties and actors discussing the question of agrarian reform. They offer a wonderful picture of political debates, illustrating how each party understood agrarian reform. Finally, the Congressional Archive in La Paz city holds a very complete collection of laws, congressional debates, and newspapers.
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(1.) Laura Gotgowitz, A Revolution for Our Rights: Indigenous Struggles for Land and Justice in Bolivia, 1880–1952 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008).
(2.) Laura Gotkowitz, A Revolution for Our Rights: Indigenous Struggles for Land and Justice in Bolivia, 1880–1952 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007), 48.
(3.) Law (January 8, 1925) and Supreme Decree (October 2, 1920); prohibits the sale of Indian communal land. Gotkowitz argues “this decree, together with a 1916 decree that rigidly controlled the appropriation of Indian lands, contributed to ending the decades-long alienation of territory.” A Revolution for Our Rights, 60.
(4.) Herbert Klein, Origenes de la Revolución Nacional Boliviana: La crisis de la generación del Chaco (La Paz: Libreria y Editorial Juventud, 1968), 120.
(5.) Klein, Orígenes de la revolución nacional boliviana, 148, 165.
(6.) Andrey Schelchkov, “En los umbrales del socialismo boliviano: Tristán Marof y la Tercera Internacional Comunista,” Revista Izquierdas 3, no. 5, 2009, 6.
(7.) Alfredo Sanjinés was a prominent Bolivian politician and writer prior to the Revolution. He published Más fuerte que la tierra: Ensayo social del indio boliviano (La Paz: Editorial Renacimiento, 1933) and El Quijote mestizo: Historia novelada de Belzu y Melgarejo, con el proceso de la demagogia y de la dictadura en Bolivia (La Paz: Editorial Centenario, 1951).
(8.) Alfredo Sanjinés, La Reforma Agraria en Bolivia (La Paz, s.n., 1932).
(9.) Klein, Orígenes, 123. See also Guillermo Lora, Bolivia’s most important Trotskyst leader, he argues that 1920s radical ideas had very little impact among mainstream political parties. Guillermo Lora, Historia del movimiento obrero boliviano, vol. 4 (La Paz; Cochabamba: Los Amigos del Libro, 1980).
(10.) Schelchkov, Andrey, “La izquierda en la posguerra del Chaco,” in Historia de las izquierdas bolivianas: Archivos y documentos (1920–1940), ed. Andrey Schelchkov and Pablo Stefanoni (La Paz: Centro de Investigaciones Sociales [CIS]), 2016:76.
(11.) Klein, Orígenes, 321.
(12.) Rossana Barragán, Asambleas constituyentes: ciudadanía y elecciones, convenciones y debates 1825–1971 (La Paz: Muela del Diablo, 2006), 140–141.
(13.) Barragán, Asambleas constituyentes, 145–146.
(14.) Klein, Orígenes, 328; and Gotkowitz, A Revolution for Our Rights, 123.
(15.) Gotkowitz, A Revolution for Our Rights, 126.
(16.) Federico Román, Redactores del Congreso (La Paz, 1938), 255. Similarly, Congressman Lijerón Rodriguez argues that Bolivia is very different from Mexico, thus Bolivia cannot copy Mexican legislation, 259.
(17.) Bilbao Llano, Redactores del Congreso 1938, 285.
(18.) Barragán, Asambleas constituyentes, 140: Gotkowitz, A Revolution for Our Rights, 127–128.
(19.) Luis Antezana and Hugo Romero, Historia de los sindicatos campesinos: un proceso de integración nacional en Bolivia (La Paz: Ministerio de Asuntos Campesinos, Consejo Nacional de Reforma Agraria, Dpto. de Investigaciones Sociales, 1973), 74. Aside from the peasants unions of Cliza and Vacas, peasants organized several unions in Higuera-Huayco (Tarija), Coca Marco (Arque, Cochabamba), Kochi (Punata) and Iscayachi (Tarija). All unions were created on municipal or ecclasiatical rural properties.
(20.) Gotkowitz, A Revolution for Our Rights, 153.
(21.) Gotkowitz, A Revolution for Our Rights, 146
(22.) Coati was created by the Supreme Resolution of July 17, 1942. The Supreme Decree of July 18, 1942 ratified the creation of the three penal colonies in Coati, Todos Santos, and Ichilo.
(23.) Gotkowitz, A Revolution for Our Rights, 193–194. Gotkowitz points out that Guatemala and Ecuador carried out Constitutional Assemblies, and that Mexico and Peru led Indigenista Congresses. But Bolivia was the only country that called for a National Indigenous Congress.
(24.) Indian leaders demanded protection of their rights before the Comison de Indian Affairs in Congress: Redactor de la Honorable Cámara de Diputados. Congreso Ordinario de 1943. Agosto y septiembre. TOMO I (La Paz: Escuela Tipografica Salesiana, 1944).
(25.) Decrees 318, 319, and 320, May 1945 in Ministerio de Asuntos Campesinos, Gaceta Campesina, n.1, August 1952: 38–44.
(26.) Decrees 318, 319, and 320, May 1945 in Ministerio de Asuntos Campesinos, Gaceta Campesina.
(27.) Gotkowitz, A Revolution for Our Rights, 229–230.
(28.) Gotkowitz argues that when looking at the cycle of rebellion of the 1940s we can tell there was a revolution before the revolution. This broader understanding of the national revolution shows that peasants were key actors within it. This argument powerfully challenges our prior understanding of the revolution, which focused on the three day of revolt where urban militias and mine workers had a more protagonist role. A Revolution for Our Rights, 5–6, 269, 271
(29.) James Dunkerley, Rebelion en las venas: La lucha politica en Bolivia 1952–1982 (La Paz, 1987), 59.
(30.) Carmen Soliz, “Fields of Revolution: Agrarian Reform and Rural State Formation in Bolivia, 1936–1971” (PhD diss., New York University, 2014), 191.
(31.) The Prefect of Cochabamba wrote a private letter to the Ministry of Government. He argued “although the MNR succeeded in organizing peasants into unions almost everywhere in the countryside, I must tell you that ninety percent of them do not respond to the MNR, anymore. The Prefect argued that (irresponsible, mercenary) agitators have helped to create the confusion in the countryside. The peasants now believe that a more powerful man will come to implement land redistribution.” Letter of December 17, 1952. ABNB-WGA, box 30.
(32.) Jane Benton, Agrarian Reform in Theory and in Practice: Lake Titicaca Region of Bolivia (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999), 52.
(33.) Decree-Law 3464 of Agrarian Reform, August 2, 1953, Article 78.
(34.) Decree-Law 4008, March 30, 1955 “Autorización para transferir directamenre las tierras.” The decree contemplates provinces Iturralde, Tipuani (Province of Larecaja), Caranavi (Province Nor Yungas), and Province Caupolicán in La Paz; the east provinces of Chapare and Carrasco in Cochabamba, all the provinces of Santa Cruz with the exception of Vallegrande, Florida, Ñuflo Chavez, and Andrés Ibañez; Luis Calvo Province in Chuquisaca, Gran Chaco, O’Connor in Tarija, and Ballivian Province in Beni,
(35.) Decree 3471, the creation of Servicio Nacional de Reforma Agraria (SNRA), August 27, 1953, articles 31–48.
(36.) Speech by Federico Alvarez Plata, Secretario Ejecutivo del Comité Político Nacional del MNR, MNR National Convention. “Inauguración de la Convención Nacional del MNR.”La Nación (La Paz), February 4, 1953.
(37.) Supreme Decree 3464, August 2, 1953, articles 35, 36, and 39.
(38.) For a definition of latifundio see Supreme Decree 3464, August 2, 1953, article 12.
(39.) Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, Oprimidos pero no vencidos: luchas del campesinado aymara y qhechwa, 1900–1980 (La Paz: Aruwiyiri, Taller de Historia Oral Andino [THOA]), 2010 (1984), 144.
(40.) Xavier Albó, 1987, 386. Quote translated by Jeffery Webber, Red October: Left Indigenous Struggles in Modern Bolivia (Haymarket Books: Chicago, 2012), 88.
(41.) Constitución Política del Estado, February 2, 1967, Article 7, clause I; also articles 165–170. James Clark argues that, in contrast with what landlords had expected, Barrientos ratified the spirit of the law on agrarian reform. James Clark, “Temas sobre la propiedad rural y reforma agraria en Bolivia” (La Paz: Servicio Nacional de Reforma Agraria, 1970), 9. Clark cites some of the laws that protected peasants. Decree Law 07033, January 24, 1965 explicitly states: “considering that the agrarian reform constitutes the most important conquest of the revolution, the Army must keep effective that conquest not only because of the great social, economic and human achievements it brought but also because it was one of the aspirations of Germán Busch y Gualberto Villarroel.” The decree ordered the army to create a special commission to protect the agrarian reform. Decree Law 07189, May 24, 1965 states that ordinary tribunals of justice cannot revise decisions made by agrarian courts.
(42.) When Barrientos took power, some landlords saw a new opportunity to revisit the agrarian reform. In August 1965, landowners from Cochabamba directly requested that he reconsider this process. They claimed that the reform “implemented during a general revolutionary euphoria had created only anarchy, poverty, and hunger in the countryside.” In their letter, they raised key demands: “that the government guarantee private property; the rectification of the mistakes made and the anomalies created over the course of the implementation of the agrarian reform; the compensation of landowners whose properties had been expropriated; the marginalization of unscrupulous leaders, whom they called ‘traffickers’ from the unions; and the reconsideration of any verdicts that the president had signed because of illegal pressures and impositions.” Letter to President General René Barrientos, August 30, 1965, Archivo y Biblioteca Nacionales de Bolivia -Presidencia de la República, file 1099.
(43.) Silvera Rivera Cusicanqui referred to the MNR’s strategy of dividing the organization of mine workers from peasants as a means to isolate the first ones and to build a subordinate alliance with the latter. She argues that Barrientos, taking advantage of these same channels of alliance and subordination, ended up institutionalizing what was known as the Peasant-Military pact. See Oprimidos pero no vencidos, 143–144. The military showed a most benevolent face in the countryside, implementing small projects for development in terms of irrigation.
(44.) Carlos Luis Terrazas’ judicial petition, February 21, 1978, INRA-LP, Omasuyos Province, box 82, Zona Aruquipa file.
(45.) Severo Quisbert’s judicial petition in the name of the appellants. Quisbert not only argues that the land had been abandoned but that they (the Indians) were the legitimate owners of those lands, and they lost them during the time of the hacienda regime and it is fair that the agrarian reform return those lands to those who are truly working on them. November 23, 1978, INRA-LP, Omasuyos Province, box 82, Zona Aruquipa file.
(46.) President Paz Estenssoro and Guillermo Justiniano’s verdict, September 29, 1987, INRA-LP, Omasuyos Province, box 82, Zona Aruquipa file.
(47.) Art 129, Decree of Agrarian Reform, 3464. This law that ruled Bolivian agrarian reform in the 1950s did not differ much from the integrationist policies of the International Labor Organization (ILO) of the United Nations (UN) signed in 1957. See: Convention concerning the Protection and Integration of Indigenous and Other Tribal and Semi-Tribal Populations in Independent Countries, Convention 107, 1957.
(48.) Bolivia started its most concrete program for colonization in the 1940s under the Bohan Plan. This was an American program that “recommended economic diversification, import substitution, and monetary stabilization.” The plan focused on Oriente. “It proposed starting import substitution of basic agricultural commodities in Santa Cruz, by totally overhauling the region’s agrarian structure.” “The Bohan Plan saw the Oriente as Bolivia’s new growth area.” Nancy Postero, Now We Are Citizens: Indigenous Politics in Postmulticultural Bolivia (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008), 45. In 1948 the Inter American Agricultural Service and the Ministry of Agriculture encouraged two centers for colonization in Caranavi (North of La Paz) and in Chapare (east of Cochabamba). They also promoted the creation of agricultural experimental farms in Saavedra, Muyurina in Santa Cruz, Riberalta and Reyes in Beni. In the 1950s, the MNR continued this program for the colonization of the lowlands.
(49.) Postero, Now We Are Citizens, 47.
(50.) Shirley Orozco, Pablo Stefanoni, and Linera A. García, “No somos juguete de nadie”: Análisis de la relación de movimientos sociales, recursos naturales, estado y descentralización (La Paz: Plural editores, 2006)
(52.) Carmen Soliz, “El discurso sobre el territorio en los pueblos indígenas de las tierras bajas desde la perspectiva de la Confederación de los Pueblos Indígenas de Bolivia (CIDOB): 1982–2000” (BA Thesis, Universidad Nuestra Señora de La Paz, 2002), 85. In the first congress, the CIDOB organized a special commission to speed agrarian procedures, to attend new demands for new endowment of new lands.
(53.) Salvador Puig, “The Emergence of Indigenous Movements in Latin America and Their Impact on the Latin American Political Scene: Interpretive Tools at the Local and Global Levels,” Latin American Perspectives 37, no. 6 (November 2010): 77.
(54.) Supreme Decrees 22609, 22610, and 22611.
(55.) Ricardo Calla and Ramiro Molina, “Los pueblos indígenas y la construcción de una sociedad plural.” In: Movimientos indígenas y pactos de género. Cuadernos del Futuro Number 5 (La Paz, Programa de Naciones Unidas, 2000).
(56.) Convention 169. Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries Entry into force: September 5, 1991.
(57.) Gonzalo Colque, Efrain Tinta and Esteban Sanjinés, Segunda reforma agraria: una historia que incomoda (La Paz: Fundación Tierra, 2016), 79.
(58.) Supreme Decree 23331, November 24, 1992.
(59.) “Goni se reunirá con indígenas, empresarios y campesinos.” La Razón (La Paz), August 25, 1996. “Goni, cara a cara con campesinos, indígenas, colonizadores y empresarios.” La Razón (La Paz), August 26, 1996. “La causa campesina: los campesinos y colonizadores explocan porqué marchan y protestan.” La Razón (La Paz), September 12, 1996.
(60.) “Los empresarios temen la reversion de tierras.” La Razón (La Paz), August 22, 1996. “Banqueros denuncias que INRA es inconstitucional.” La Razón (La Paz), August 22, 1996. “CEPB: Ley INRA es populista e ignora a los empresarios.” La Razón (La Paz), August 25, 1996. “Exportadores temen funestos efectos de una mala ley INRA,” August 30, 1996. “La propiedad de la tierra bajo amenaza” and “Garantías Jurídicas para el sector agropecuario.” La Razón (La Paz), September 12, 1996.
(61.) “Campesinos amenazan con marchar a La Paz.” La Razón (La Paz), August 9, 1996. “La marcha campesina es casi un hecho: Indígenas y campesinos presentaron sus demandas y aguardan para hoy una contrapropuesta del gobierno que pueda dar solución al conflict.” La Razón (La Paz), August 21, 1996. “Campesinos, indígenas y gobierno abren un espacio para el diálogo.” The article states that the government is marginalizing the agribusiness. La Razón (La Paz), August 22, 1996. “Empresarios, cívicos y profesionales cuestionan el proyecto oficial.” La Razón (La Paz), September 6, 1996.
(62.) “Los indígenas dejan de andar para dialogar.” La Razón (La Paz), August 30, 1996. “Se acerca al tramo final del dialogo con indígenas: gobierno a punto de modificar la Ley INRA.” La Razón (La Paz), September 2, 1996. “Los indígenas recibirán hoy la garantía para titular sus tierras.” La Razón (La Paz), September 5, 1996. “Indígenas frenan la marcha y aceleran el dialogo bilateral sobre territorios.” La Razón (La Paz), September 11, 1996.
(63.) Law INRA, 1715, October 18, 1996.
(64.) When negotiating the law, the government first signed a deal with the indigenous sector, later with the agribusiness sector. See “Gobierno y los indígenas sellaría hoy un acuerdo.” La Razón (La Paz), September 13, 1996. “Gobierno e indigenas logran acuerdo inicial.” La Razón (La Paz), September 14, 1996. “Ley INRA avanza pero sin campesinos.” La Razón (La Paz), September 17, 1996.
(65.) “Los ministros acusan a las ONGs y a la COB por el conflicto. Evalúan qué hacer con la INRA.” La Razón (La Paz), September 7, 1996. “Las desventuras de la ley INRA: MNR admite que es dificil conciliar criterios de sectores.” In the article, Congressman Raul Lema complains that the NGOs that advised the indigenous groups of the lowlands make harder all negotiations. La Razón (La Paz), September 7, 1996. See also Lorenza Fontana “Indigenous Peasant ‘Otherness’: Rural Identities and Political Processes in Bolivia” in Bulletin of Latin American Research 33, no. 4 (2014): 441, 445–446.
(66.) “El diálogo agrario encuentra sus primeros puntos de acuerdo.” “Los conflictivos temas de la Ley INRA.” La Razón (La Paz), October 1, 1996. “Los ejes del acuerdo gobierno empresarios.” La Razón (La Paz), October 10, 2017.
(67.) “Campesinos terminan de retirarse hoy de La Paz, con las manos vacias.” La Razón (La Paz), October 11, 2017. “INRA: Indígenas se llevaron la major parte.” La Razón (La Paz), October 12, 1996. “Campesinos confiesan grave error.” La Razón (La Paz), October 12, 1996. “Los cambios del polemico proyecto de Ley INRA.” La Razón (La Paz), October 18, 1996.
(68.) Colque et al, La segunda reforma agraria, See: Cuadro 11: Estado de avance del proceso de saneamiento y titulación 1996–2006, 155.
(69.) Colque et al., La segunda reforma agraria, 191.
(70.) Constitution del Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia, February 7, 2009, Article 403.
(71.) When the indigenous groups of the lowlands started a new march to La Paz city, the government violently interrupted the march in September 26, 2011.
(72.) It was the Meeting of the Pluri-National State to Deepen the Process of Change in 2012.
(73.) Alejandro Almaraz, “El proceso de cambio esta corriendo el grave riesgo de agotarse,” Pagina Siete (La Paz), January 18, 2012.
(74.) René Martínez, “Ministro de la presidencia arremete contra Mesa por declaraciones sobre el Tipnis.” Los Tiempos (Cochabamba), August 17, 2017.
(75.) Nancy Postero shows how the MAS and indigenous leaders at the local level moved from a language of decolonization and the defense of indigenous rights to distribution of profits from national development. The Indigenous State: Race, Politics, and Performance in Plurinational Bolivia (Oakland: University of California Press, 2017), 149.
(76.) Carlos Sotomayor, “Apolo un conflicto entre iguales,” in Informe 2009, reconfigurando territorios: reforma agraria, control territorial y gobiernos indígenas en Bolivia, ed. R. Chumacero, Juan Pablo, and Gonzalo Colque Fernández (La Paz: Fundación Tierra, 2010), 140.
(77.) Carlos Sotomayor “Apolo, un conflicto entre iguales” in: Reconfigurando territorios, reforma agraria, control territorial y gobiernos indígenas en Bolivia, ed. Fundación Tierra (La Paz, Tierra: 2010), 140.
(78.) In Ecuador President Rafael Correa faced a similar problem with Yasuni National Park. Initially, the president offered to leave the oil in the soil to avoid carbon dioxide emissions, to safeguard indigenous rights, and to conserve biodiversity. The president hoped to get economic compensation from other countries to make up for the revenues the country would have gotten for oil extraction. But the compensation fund never exceeded $116 million, while the total amount required by the Ecuadorian government was $3.6 billion dollars. As a result, on August 15, 2013, president Correa announced oil extraction. He blamed foreign governments for not coming up with economic contributions. Marc Becker, “The Stormy Relations between Rafael Correa and Social Movements in Ecuador,” Latin American Perspectives 40, no. 3 (May 2013), 43–62. Lucrecia Wagner cites a number of conflicts in Latin America that involved the construction of megaprojects and indigenous groups and environmental groups. “Defendiendo la biodiversidad: Resistencia a megaproyectos en America Latina,” Ecología Política no. 46, Biodiversidad (Julio 2013): 81–82.
(79.) Edmundo Flores, Bolivia: Un año de reforma agraria (Mexico: s.n., 1953); Wálter del Castillo Avendaño, Compilación legal de la reforma agraria en Bolivia (La Paz: Editorial Fénix, 1955); Julio Alberto d’Avis, Los errores administrativos de la reforma agraria de Bolivia (Cochabamba: Imprenta Universitaria, 1959); Armando González, Contribución al conocimiento de la bibliografía de la reforma agraria en Bolivia (La Paz: Sociedad de Ingenieros Agrónomos de Bolivia, 1962); Arturo Urquidi, Bolivia y su reforma agraria (Cochabamba, Bolivia: Universidad Mayor de San Simón, 1969); and Angel Jemio Ergueta, La reforma agraria en Bolivia (La Paz: Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario, 1973).
(80.) For works focusing on specific regions or communities see: William Carter Aymara Communities and the Bolivian Agrarian Reform (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1964); Manuel de Lucca El sistema de la tenencia de la tierra en las comunidades originarias de la Provincia Manco Capac, Departamento de La Paz (La Paz: Servicio Nacional de Reforma Agraria, 1970); Katherine Barnes de Marschall, Revolution and Land Reform in the Bolivian Yungas of La Paz (La Paz: Servicio Nacional de Reforma Agraria, Sección Investigaciones, 1970); Roger Simmons, Palca and Pucara: A Study of the Effects of Revolution on Two Bolivian Haciendas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974); Madeline Barbara Léons, The Political Economy of Agrarian Reform in the Bolivian Yungas (s.n.,1979). For comparative works see: Dwight Heath, Charles J. Erasmus, and Hans C. Buechler Land Reform and Social Revolution in Bolivia (New York: Praeger, 1969); Ronald James Clark, Land Reform in Bolivia (Washington, DC: Agency for International Development, 1970). Marcelo Peinado Sotomayor, Land Reform in Three Communities of Cochabamba, Bolivia (Madison: Land Tenure Center, University of Wisconsin, 1971); Daniel Heyduk, The Hacienda System and Agrarian Reform in Highland Bolivia: a Re-evaluation (Madison: Land Tenure Center, University of Wisconsin, 1974); and William McEwen, Changing Rural Society: A Study of Communities in Bolivia (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975).
(81.) Jorge Dandler, El sindicalismo campesino, 7, 17.
(82.) Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, Oprimidos pero no vencidos: luchas del campesinado aymara y qhechwa, 1900–1980 (La Paz: Aruwiyiri, Editorial del Taller de Historia Oral Andino THOA,1984); Taller de Historia Oral Andina, El indio Santos Marka T’ula: cacique principal de los ayllus de Qallapa y apoderado general de las comunidades originarias de la República (La Paz: THOA, 1988); and Roberto Choque Canqui and Esteban Ticona Alejo, Jesús de Machaqa: la marka rebelde (La Paz: CEDOIN, 1996).
(83.) Ramiro Condarco Morales, Zárate, el temible Willka: historia de la rebelión indigena de 1899 en la República de Bolivia (La Paz: Renovación, 1983); Forrest Hylton, Reverberations of Insurgency: Indian Communities, the Federal War of 1899, and the Regeneration of Bolivia (PhD diss., New York University, 2010); Pilar Mendieta, Entre la alianza y la confrontación: Pablo Zárate Willka y la rebelión indígena de 1899 en Bolivia (Lima: Instituto Francés de Estudios Andinos, CNRS-MAEE, 2010); and Forrest Hylton and Sinclair Thomson, Revolutionary Horizons: Past and Present in Bolivian Politics (New York: Verso, 2007).
(84.) Laura Gotkowitz, A Revolution for Our Rights, 3.
(85.) José M. Gordillo, Campesinos revolucionarios en Bolivia: identidad, territorio y sexualidad en el valle alto de Cochabamba, 1952–1964 (La Paz: Promec, 2000), 21–22; and Waskar Ari, Earth Politics: Religion, Decolonization, and Bolivia’s Indigenous Intellectuals (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014), 135–138, 149.
(86.) Waskar Ari, Earth Politics, 149.
(87.) Articulo Primero was published by CEJIS, a non-governmental organization. Many of the articles are written by the lawyers, advisors, and anthropologists who were working for the demands of the indigenous groups in the lowlands in the 1990s and early 2000s.
(88.) Willem Assies, Gemma van der Haar, and A. J. Hoekema, El Reto de la diversidad: pueblos indígenas y reforma del estado en América Latina (Zamora, Michoacán: El Colegio de Michoacán, 1999); Bartolomé Clavero, Derecho indígena y cultura constitucional en América (México, DF: Siglo Veintiuno, 1994); Erick D. Langer and Elena Muñoz. Contemporary Indigenous Movements in Latin America (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2003); Nancy Postero, The Struggle for Indigenous Rights in Latin America (Brighton, UK: Sussex Academic, 2006); Rachel Sieder, Multiculturalism in Latin America: Indigenous Rights, Diversity, and Democracy (New York: Palgrave, 2003); Deborah Yashar, Contesting Citizenship in Latin America: The Rise of Indigenous Movements and the Postliberal Challenge (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007); and Donna Lee Van Cott, The Friendly Liquidation of the Past: The Politics of Diversity in Latin America (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007) and Radical Democracy in the Andes (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009).
(89.) Ximena Aramayo, Marc Devisscher Leroux, Vera Gianotten, Miguel Morales, and Diego Pacheco, Hablemos de tierras: minifundio, gestión territorial, bosques e impuesto agrario en Bolivia (La Paz: Plural, 2011); Gonzalo Colque, Efraín Tinta y Esteban Sanjinés, Segunda Reforma Agraria. Una historia que incomoda (La Paz: Fundación Tierra, 2016); Nancy Postero, The Indigenous State: Race, Politics, and Performance in Plurinational Bolivia (Oakland: University of California Press, 2017); and Webber, Jeffery R. From Rebellion to Reform in Bolivia: Class Struggle, Indigenous Liberation, and the Politics of Evo Morales (Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2011).