- May 14, 2020
Economicand Social History of the Americas
Agrarianreforms had a significant effect on the economic, cultural andpolitical state of America owing to the subsequent impacts on theleaders. Nonetheless, most of the effects and the impacts that it hadwere not positive entirely. The impact of the Agrarian reforms at theend of the day was felt across and is still being felt to date. Thispaper mainly concentrates on Agrarian Reform in Guatemala, Mexico,and Costa Rica. While doing so, the paper will largely dissect howagrarian reforms affect the economic and social history of theAmericas.
TheMexican revolution remains as one of the first major socialrevolutions that happened in the 20th century. Some of the reasonsfor the revolution included the authoritarian rule that was witnessedunder the leadership of the dictator Porfirio Díaz, grabbing ofmillions of land from the locals by the foreign investors and thegrowing divide that is between the rich and the poor. Given thedifferent causes and the strong social and regional divisions thatexisted, the revolution against this dictator did not have anyideological focus (Bray 35). Even though the revolutionists removedthe dictator within six months, they would not reach any agreement asfar as new social and political order are concerned. After failing toreach democracy, they ended up fighting among themselves thus leadingto a bitter civil war.
Inthe year 1917, the faction that was victorious crafted theconstitution. This was the first constitution that incorporated thesocial rights of the citizens and restricted the rights of theprivate especially the foreign capital. Even though the constitutionremained fully enforced and just repealed in the 1990s, the documentwas one of the achievements of the revolution. After 1920, asuccession of revolutionary generals ended up centralizing thepolitical power up to the point where a civilian president candidatewas elected in 1946. Making this effort at the state buildingconfronted some of the significant resistance from a couple ofpopular groups, the regional warlords and disaffected leaders who hadnot gained anything when political realignment happened. In the end,the symbolic importance of the revolution exceeded the political andsocial results.
Eventhough the revolution was agrarian in nature, it resulted in theproduction of the new national elite that ended up restoring thestrong central state. The revolution that happened can easily bedivided into military (1915-1917) and then the reconstructive phaseof the revolution that happened between 1917 and 1946 (Hamilton 31).Nonetheless, the second phase of the revolution witnessed a verysignificant generational change that led to the shift of politicalpower from the leaders of the military phase to the subordinates andthe civilian representatives. This happened with the formation of arevolutionary ruling party in 1929, which ended up serving as themost critical watershed moment in the process. While analyzing theagrarian revolution in Mexico, this section takes into account threedifferent phases, which include the insurrection and civil war thathappened between 1915 and 1917 reconstruction phase (1917-1929) andinstitutionalization phase (1929-1946).
Oneof the individuals who played a critical role in the Agrarianrevolution was Emiliano Zapata. Zapata created the agrariancommissions that were used to distribute the land (Sellars 1915).During this time, Zapata advocated for equal treatment and wanted nokind of favoritism and corruption when distributing the land. Zapatain his quest to see the revolution happen wanted the plight ofMexican peasants to be relieved and stabilize the country to end thedebt-slaves and the continuous revolts and the revolutions that arecommon in Mexico (Sellars 1912). Zapata used the agrarian reforms asa means of stabilizing the country. In addition, Lazaro Cardenasplayed a critical role in the Agrarian reform. The Cardenas sawagrarian reform as the focal point of the Mexican Revolution.Nonetheless, he saw the turmoil it resulted into among the peasantsand the manner in which it threatened to lead to a revolution to anend. On the other hand, Calles the opponent to Lazaro viewed agrarianreform as failure and instead did not concentrate on it but ratheropted to invest in irrigation and export agriculture on the largeestates. Essentially, the domestic policy of Cardenas marked therenewal of agrarian reform and during the six-year term he handedabout 44 million hectares of land to the peasants. This was a boldmove as it was two times the amount that was distributed to theprevious leaders.
Agrarianreforms had a significant effect on the economic, cultural andpolitical state of Mexico owing to the subsequent impacts on theleaders. Nonetheless, most of the effects and the impacts that it hadwere not positive entirely. The impact of the Agrarian reforms at theend of the day was felt across and is still being felt to date.
Duringthe Agrarian reforms, there were a couple of impactful plans thatrevolutionary leaders were involved in. One of the plans was theAyala Plan that was a brainchild of Zapata both in ideology andvision. This plan set out the devolution of land and property totownships and citizens and also stated the significance of theagrarian reform to the revolution. The capability of the plan todictate the requirement formed the background for agrarian reform,and this was what most of the revolutionists required wanted andfollowed. The Ayala plan also did not endorse and in fact dismissedsome of the revolutionary leaders such as the crowning of PascualOrozco. The plan was never implemented even though it influenced theother documents and plans that were crafted. The Ayala plan had a lotof effects in politics especially in the realms of 1917 Constitutionof Mexico.
TheAgrarian Reform had a great impact on the 1917 Constitution of Mexicoas well as on most of the revolutionaries that were considered aspart of the reform (Gonzales 596). The Constitution brought with itseveral changes which included forbidding of slavery and promotion offree mandatory education that led to having the new Labor Code andnew Property rights. Through forbidding of slavery, thousands ofenslaved farmers could be accommodated. These farmers had beencoerced to work in the aristocratic lands due to debts. This remainedas one of the Agrarian reforms objectives as it implied that nofarmer had to be concerned about forceful working. Also, the idea ofVilla regarding education was also effected (Gonzales 597).
Thenew Labor Codes and the Property rights were a significantachievement as far as Agrarian Reform were concerned. It wasconsidered as an accomplishment as it took power from the aristocratsand handed it over to the peasants. Even though it did not take awayall the land from the aristocrats, it gave the peasants anopportunity to own land and provided a chance for future developmentin regards to the power structure. Even though the Agrarian Reformpositively impacted the Mexican constitution, it was also a negativeforce in politics. For instance, some of the leaders such as AlvaroObregon took advantage of the Agrarian Reform and used it as a meansof gaining the presidency in Mexico. Alvaro took advantage of theanger of peasants and used it as a means of gaining politicalmileage. Alvaro while taking advantage of the peasants made somefalse promises to the people and thus soiled the Agrarian Reform aswell as the ideologies about it. Later a lot of conflicts arose asthe peasants would no longer trust their presidents. This led to morerevolts as compared to stopping the individuals and even made theefforts put up by revolutionary leaders such as Villa and Zapata notto count.
Overtime, most of the Presidents started to appreciate the goals ofAgrarian Reform and adhered to them. A case in point is LazaroCardenas who was president in 1934 and left office in 1940. Accordingto Lazaro, Agrarian reform was the focal point of the MexicanRevolution even though it did not lead to turmoil among thepeasantry. The observation by this President was mainly because ofhis belief on the manner in which the implementation was being done(Gonzales 597).
Theconcept of Agrarian reform had a lot of impact in regards to the landownership question that was largely meant for the aristocraticlandowners. The reform instilled the idea on the Mexicans that everyanother individual was to own land if they were to be considered partof Mexico Call. This had long-term effects as it ensured unity andcommunity aspect to the culture of the Mexicans and nationalisticaspect that is still vivid among the Mexicans (Gonzales 598).Nonetheless, socially, the Agrarian reform also led to negativepractices like Neolatifundismo which was a practice that occurredbetween 1940 and 1970. Happened when Mexican land was rented by someof the businessmen. The Neolatifindismo practice was a positivereinforcement for the economy though, in the long run, it had aneffect on the land rights for the peasants. The land was to be fullygiven to the owners, but it ended up getting into the wrong handsduring the distribution. The practice would later be put to an end inthe 1970s when President Luis Echeverria legalized the acquisition ofMexican land from foreign owners that made them get massive lands.The effect was felt by the population owning land in Mexico. Owing tothe land distribution that happened during the Agrarian reforms, thelower classes have had more stable state of the economy that ishealthy for the economic health of Mexico. The impact ofrevolutionary leaders is still being felt to date. Even thoughconcerns are still raised about corruption in government andeducational and land goals, the Agrarian reforms that were achievedchanged the manner in which most of the individuals lived their lives(Gonzales 598).
Agrarianreforms have had immense impacts on the agricultural developments inCosta Rica hence overall economic development. Agriculturaldevelopment on its own cannot lead to agricultural development(Corbera 315). One of the limits of the agriculture sector withinCosta Rica is the defect in land tenure structure that has been ahindrance to the development of national economic development as wellas per capita productivity. The Costa Rican government came up withthe Land and the Land Settlement Law that was meant to address theproblems and the defects of the land tenure arrangements that werewitnessed in the country. Agrarian reform refers to the agrarianstructure that often covers the institutional structure ofagricultural production. By definition of agrarian reforms, the landredistribution program needs to be properly planned and evaluated andat the same time knowing that the credit may be a requirement toreplace the landlord capital and also enable the differentcultivators to organize their units for maximum production. Giventhat the land re-distribution the program will affect both economicand social development. This implies that the redistribution programhas to be assessed in regards to both economic and social developmentof the country. These concepts just stress on two issues. First, theagrarian reform offers one of the best ways to development.Nonetheless, it has not to be considered as a panacea by and ofitself, rather it should be assessed in regards to the overalleconomic development.
Fora long time, Costa Rica has witnessed land irregularities, and thisis not new to the other Latin American countries. Notably, theagrarian situation in the pre-law days is a result of a set offactors of different kinds and includes political, historical,economic, social and legal aspects. With the defects in the landtenure frameworks, the incentives for the cultivator to increase hisproductivity is affected. Uncertainty in regards to the control ofland resources is mainly touching on four main defects, which includeuncertainty arising from the terms, and the conditions set for thetenure, absence of the land titles, high chances of ownership lossdue to high fixed mortgage commitments and the price as well as theyield uncertainties and immobilities in occupation (Amanor 741).
Havingthese kinds of defects only lead to shortening of the economiccapability of the farmer, and this means that resources are at theend not allocated optimally. Given that a farmer will develop thefear of not getting enough benefits, he will not allocate enoughresources to ensure optimum productivity thus reducing the efficiencyof the labor, and this is just in a way interfering with one of theessential elements that are required for economic development. Infact, the nature of the land situation in Costa Rica remains animportant factor when coming up with the pattern of tenure ascharacterized by the few tenants (Amanor 733).
Ruralpoverty has been a problem in Costa Rica for quite some time. InCosta Rica, there is a big disparity between the peasant andnon-peasant in Costa Rica in regards to the agrarian structure.According to the data available in Costa Rica, property includingland is inequitably distributed among those who own land. Notably,most of the peasants own no land at all. Even though there is varyingestimates, nearly three-quarters of all the economically activecitizens who work in the agriculture are landless. The link thatexists between agrarian structure and poverty has been made clearlyCorbera (307) who noted that approximately three-quarters of the pooramong the Costa Rica’s poor live in the rural areas. Notablybetween 55 and 60 percent of the rural poor are landless.
Agrarianreforms have played a critical role in addressing the problem ofrural poverty. One such measure was in 1961 when Costa Rica embarkedin a very serious efforts at land reform. Even though the program didnot achieve much in the first decade of its execution, there are alot of progress that has been made especially from 1975. The programled to almost 5,528 families made up of 32, 438 people to receive the167, 134 hectares of land. Notably, the land redistribution is justone of the several measures of the reform effort. Some of theprograms that have been initiated include settling the conflictsamong the squatters, titling of land and provision of land to thesmall indigenous population in Costa Rica (Bell 13).
Inthe 1960s, one of the major problems that was facing Costa Ricanpeasants was the insecurity of tenure. As Costa Rica started openingup the new lands to settlement and colonization in the last sectionof the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century, there wasa failure to put in place the required institutional structures toensure the provision of land titles. Even to date, the judicialtitling process remains complicated (Bell 17). Owing to thecomplexity of the system, it is estimated that averagely untitledowners occupied 1.2 million hectares in 1963. Later, Agrarian Projectwas undertaken, and it identified two major negative consequences oftenure insecurity. First, the untitled owners would not get thecredit facilities from the bank. Also, the farmers whose land areuntitled are less likely to plant permanent crops on the lands asthey fear that they can be evicted by the owners.
Throughthe titling program taking place between 1971 and 1975, a total of14, 764 titles were given in the national reserve lands. The titlingactivities before 1971 were mainly in the ITCO colonies and the landsthat had witnessed mainly the squatting disputes that ITCO hadresolved. By the year 1979, ITCO had achieved its set goal, and bythis, it had given approximately 122, 772 individuals.
AgrarianReform Law in Guatemala in 1952
Guatemalaenacted the Agrarian Reform Law Decree 900 in 1952. The Decree turnedout to be an instrument for national development through theimprovement of agrarian rights and land distribution. Although thelaw was only adhered to for only eighteen months, the Decreecontrolled labor and land legislation up to date. Fight for agrarianrights continued throughout the civil war and military dictatorshipwhich plagued Guatemala until the Peace Accord signing of 1996.Thoughts on land reform began in the 1952 law continue to have apervasive impact on the Guatemalan land reform movement. Thisresearch is further framed and contextualized with analysis andquotes from José Luis Paredes Moreira’s study of Decree 900 andits influence in Guatemala. Another part of this reform law involvesan original translation of Decree 900.
1944-1954October Revolution transformed Guatemalan politics. Two head ofstates served during this period, Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán and Juan JoséArévalo. However, President Arévalo’s election symbolizes thebeginning of political democracy to Guatemala, as his election istreated as the first fair and democratic election in Guatemala’shistory since independence. President Arévalo’s election is alsovital as he came from exile to run against the incumbent and continuethe projects proposed by the October Revolution, led by Jacobo ArbenzGuzmán.
PresidentArbenz emerged the winner of November 1950 election due to hiscampaign for agrarian reform. But he continues to push for thedemocratic transition via economic and political reform, pushing thecountry to more a more capitalist and democratic society. Agrarianreform as suggested by Arbenz was not contradictory to the latestcapitalistic and democratic objective as the primary targets were toensure representation, to boost production and, to ensure rights forcitizens in the global capitalist economy of the 1950s. During hiselection campaign, Arbenz is greatly remembered saying that “ allof the riches of Guatemala are not as crucial as the liberty, life,health, happiness, and the dignity of the most humble of itsinhabitants, Immerman (pg. 6) after numerous research and much debateincluding investing eight years into the October Revolution,President Arbenz pressurized forward reform project, later came to beknown as Decree 900to the 1952 Guatemalan Congress.
Severalprivate landholders, politicians, and agricultural-based corporationmaintained that the draft legislation was not constitutional. Thoseagainst the Decree indicated that the law would violate propertyrights via land confiscation without clear compensation ordemonstrated public interest to the landowner. They also reasonedthat the implementation of the bill would interfere with the economicstatus of the nation, increase soil erosion and jeopardize employerand employee relations. To win public trust towards the reform,Congress quickly passed the legislation.
Theintention of Decree 900 was to renew the feudalist, agriculturalstructure with a capitalist. The reform would later acquire land fromnational holdings, private owners and redistribute it to theindividuals or cooperative groups. National lands were partitionedunder lifetime tenure. Private land during those days included landrented in any form, uncultivated land, certain municipal land, landneeded for rural settlement, and land with sources of water not beingutilized for cultivation, irrigation or industrial purpose. Landsexcluded from redistribution included communal lands of indigenousgroups, the property of 221 acres or less, capitalist developmentlands, and national forest reserves. To determine which national andprivate properties would be owned for redistribution were consideredby a team of commissions identified by Decree 900 and PresidentArbenz.
Stipulatedin Decree 900, Title IV highlighted the associations designed toincorporate the agrarian reform. These involved Local AgrarianCommittees (CALs), the National Agrarian Department (DAN), DepartmentAgrarian Commissions (CADs), the National Agrarian Council (CAN) andthe president. CAN was the only organ answerable to the presidentdirectly while DAN was in charge to determine the distribution ofexpropriated lands. For land to be expropriated cooperative or anindividual would submit a legal request for a particular piece ofland and new title deeds, would be used only for the approval survey.DAN initially played the role of distributing idle public land andnational farm, leaving private assets intact. According to (Trefzger,pg. 38) by 1952 October, approximately 3,000 denouncements wereenrolled with CAN. Additionally, CALs became supreme organizationswith distribution authority over resources and land in theirconstituency. By 1954 over 3000 CALs already existed.
Thelaw of the eighteen months was very popular in the 1954 Decree.One-sixth of productive land was seized, and state help for farmersincluded agricultural programs, education, and credit. The credit wasfor cooperative, and individual purchase or rent of lands as loans,and they were costly and rare. Such initiatives were occasionallyintegrated to remote farmers before the reforms. The NationalMortgage Credit Union (CHN) and the National Agrarian Bank (BNA) werealso established by Guatemalan Congress in February 1953. But between1953 and 1954, the CHN and BNA approved approximately $11,881,432 inloans, showing one-sixth the national budget for this duration.
Theseprograms offered loans in six and twelve-month increments at along-term fixed rate of 6% with a total loan of $ 225 double thenational income per individual in 1950. Loans were refundedindividually or a combination of three traditional types ofrepayment, to entail cash, production from a predestine section ofland, and harvest products. Salary included 3% of the annual harvestvalue for vital usufruct or lifetime tenure, but 5% of the annualharvest went to purchased land. Loans meant for land had a high rateof refund, as stipulated via a 90.4% refund between March andNovember 1953. Other initiatives were also incorporated in assistanceof the land reform law.
Arural education campaign was also introduced during this time inhelping of the agrarian reform. The aim was that if the remoteworkers knew how to read, write, receive credit, and understand theagricultural market and the cultivation processes, the agrarianreform goals would be achieved. Decree 900 decided to spread of labororganization and rural land workers in the agricultural in the reformand agricultural economy, but not as an intention to introduceagrarian development from the top down.
Landsinfluenced by this reform involved private properties and territoriesin 20 of the 22sections throughout Guatemala. The law backed up theredistribution of 16% of Guatemalan lands, which profited 100, 000families, about 500,000 residents in a population of 3 million. According to Adam`s research, the demographic of land recipients waspartitioned: 19% Indigenous and 81% mestizo. The highest private landowners in Guatemala, (UFCo) the United Fruit Company, had 165,182hectares the remaining section of its total land was acquired andredistributed. Additionally, land from the private estate of ErnestoLeal Pérez was also acquired, but Leal divided the courts for alegal review as to the legality of the agrarian reform andredistribution of personal properties (Paul and Friedman, pg.675).
Thereform in Guatemala intended to design latest rural employmentopportunities increase agrarian investment, boost production,redistribute production resources, diversify agriculture, developmentof the countryside, and to enhance participation from remote farmersin the democratization. The terrestrial and social goals for agrarianreform legislation to modify a more realign political authority,equal society, and uplift national economic operation (Richard,pg.1).
Thereform was effective to develop the rural areas without the supportof scouting for rural workers and foreign capital into activeGuatemalan population. The reform was introduced as a peaceful meansto change the historical agrarian society into a capitalist andpluralistic society. However, the achievement of these objectivescame to a sudden weak standstill with the repeal of the law in 1954.
Thepositions of the subsequent government concerning agrarian reformdiffered greatly. However, agrarian reform incentives and policiescontinued due to the repeal of Decree 900. With the contribution ofUS Central Intelligence Agency and UFCo, President Carlos CastilloArmas managed to overthrow the Arbenz government. Immediately heintroduced powerful regime and repealed all the economic andpolitical reform from the October Revolution. But in generalGuatemala land reform laws played imperative roles to bring peace andharmony to the community. It also helped the population to becameseek education and become more organized both social, economicallyand politically. For instance, farmers could use the acquired know topredict weather pattern including high seasons for planting andharvesting.
Fromthe discussions, it is evident that Agrarian reforms have had impactson the social and economic makeup of the Americas with specialattention to Guatemala, Mexico, and Costa Rica. In Mexico, theAgrarian Reforms led to the introduction of the new Labor Codes andthe Property rights. It was considered as an accomplishment as ittook power from the aristocrats and handed it over to the peasants.Even though it did not take away all the land from the aristocrats,it gave the peasants an opportunity to own land and provided a chancefor future development in regards to the power structure. In CostaRica, the agrarian reforms played a critical role in addressing theproblem of rural poverty. One such measure was in 1961 when CostaRica embarked in a very serious efforts at land reform. The programled to almost 5,528 families made up of 32, 438 people to receive the167, 134 hectares of land. Notably, the land redistribution is justone of the several measures of the reform effort. Some of theprograms that have been initiated include settling the conflictsamong the squatters, titling of land and provision of land to thesmall indigenous population in Costa Rica. In Guatemala, the landreform laws played imperative roles to bring peace and harmony to thecommunity. It also helped the population to became seek education andbecome more organized both social, economically and politically.
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