Bolivia: Property Rights vs. Land Reform

Bolivia voted in a new constitution that, among other things, will limit the size of the largest rural properties, and potentially redistribute land to poorer communities.

The BBC said more than 60 percent of voters approved the constitution, although Bolivia’s landowners rejected it.

Morales, the country’s first indigenous president, originally wanted all “unused” land to be available for redistribution to the poor.

Bolivia is the poorest country in South America, according to Inter Press Service, a left-leaning news agency, with most of the country’s arable lands in the hands of the wealthiest, European-descended citizens.

Strong opposition from this sector forced Morales to focus landholding limits on future land sales only.

Yet the new constitution gives the government “the right to determine whether rural property is serving an economic and social function, or is unproductive and thus subject to expropriation — with fair compensation — and redistribution to poor families,” IPS reports.

The divide between wealthy lowlanders, who live primarily in the eastern lowlands, and the poorer indigenous highlanders in the west, is “unlikely to diminish,” notes the BBC.

–Julia Hengst/


“New Bolivia constitution in force”
BBC, February 7, 2009

“Q&A: Bolivia Limits Size of Estates in Land Reform Struggle”
Inter Press Agency, January 27, 2009

3 thoughts on “Bolivia: Property Rights vs. Land Reform

  1. Redistribution of parcels to the poor will not improve the lives of poor farmers . A more practical and tested way would be the Israel model of kibutzim where resources are either provided by the government or pulled together among the cooperative members. Poor people even if you give them land need capital to operate a farm. a ranch or any other business.
    Some governments although how good their intentions to help their poor citizens never learn from the successes of others

  2. Wilmer I find your post very condescending, I suppose injection of capital would be good, however lets not forget the pioneers of the day, who with bare hands and little by way of tools tilled the land and produced for themselves and to sell.
    Yours is exactly the mentality we dont need when it comes to learning to go back to the land again, sure Kibutzism may be one form of answer but it is not the ideal one, we ae heading into a survival mode as the economy of the world implodes and Just like when Cuba lost its oil, we will one day lose our petro agricultural dependence on fertilzers and flash ways of doing things, the sooner we learn to return to a shovel and pick and a packet of seeds the better.
    Lila Smith

  3. Stangely enough the solution to might be a “collective” after the former Soviet pattern. By the end of the FSU, the people who lived in this form of agricultural production, they rationalized their production and delivery as well as each small holder sold their goods, both agricultural and small manufacture in town for a nice profit.

    Heck, by the time Perestroika came around, people drove to the “collective”, bought a chicken, took it home, found someone to slaughter it, and had it for dinner. It was “illegal”, but everyody did it. In contrast, in Bolivia, this could be legal.

    For the record there are no Kibbutzim anymore, neither are their small holders villages operating according share and share alike. It works, though, differently, but the idea of living together in the periphery, staying there, rather than moving to big city remains.