Co n C l u s i o n
Latin American agrarian reforms in the 1960s through the 1980s, in gen-
eral, did not do much to transform skewed economies with extreme in-
come inequalities and glaring rural-urban disparities. They did not resolve
the problems of endemic poverty, nor cope with the tremendous popula-
tion explosion in Latin America by providing more work opportunities in
the countryside. Reform efforts were short lived because opportunities for
action by the few enlightened leaders who were willing and able to over-
come resistance to land expropriation came only in rare moments of po-
litical ferment. Reforms often were followed by counterreforms. In Peru, a
rural insurrection by Maoists developed after its agrarian reform. In Chile,
Nicaragua, and El Salvador, agrarian reforms were associated with revolu-
tionary and counterrevolutionary conflict, as well as the direct or indirect
involvement of the United States. Many people died in El Salvador and
Nicaragua. As a whole agrarian reform that started off as a revolutionary
idea became a conservative policy enacted as a palliative to stem potential
unrest, or to provide demobilized soldiers with something to do after the
In all of them, land distribution was problematic at best. Too little land
was distributed, and land that was doled out went to the better off of the
poorer classes. The reformed sectors were not provided sufficient or ap-
propriate support by bureaucracies that were bungling and indifferent, a
problem that was worsened by strapped government spending. Collective
group farming on cooperatives has tended to collapse throughout the Latin
American countries where it was implemented, even in Cuba’s sugar co-
The Berkeley economist Alain de Janvri, whose overview of agrarian
reforms and counterreforms in Latin America in The Agrarian Question
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