AGRICULTURE MINISTER FOCUSES ON LAND TITLING

Código Fecha Clasificación Origen
06LAPAZ680 13 March 2006 No clasificado Embassy La Paz

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLP #0680/01 0721843
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 131843Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8406
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 5675
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 2943
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 6821
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 4054
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1378
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RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 3627
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 4018
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 8540
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS LA PAZ 000680

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/AND
TREASURY FOR SGOOCH
ENERGY FOR CDAY AND SLADISLAW

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR, ECON, ETRD, PINR, PGOV, PREL, EAID, BL
SUBJECT: AGRICULTURE MINISTER FOCUSES ON LAND TITLING

REF: LA PAZ 598

1. (SBU) Summary: In a March 8 meeting with the Ambassador,
Minister of Agriculture Hugo Salvatierra explained that the
new Ministry of Rural Development and Agriculture had taken
over the tasks of two and a half ministries, and was
currently consulting with civil groups for their input into
the National Development Plan. Salvatierra said the
Agriculture Ministry would work on four themes: land
redistribution and titling, production stimulation, expanding
markets, and improving access to financing. Salvatierra,
with a background in law, human rights, and indigenous
issues, is clearly focused on resolving Bolivia’s land
conflict. In this context, he emphasized the need for
implementing expedited titling procedures, particularly in
the eastern lowlands. While Salvatierra hopes to defuse
social tensions by pursuing land reform, others believe this
will only spread altiplano-type poverty to other parts of the
country. Salvatierra also expressed concern that small soy
producers would lack the infrastructure to compete with U.S.
companies in Colombia after the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade
Agreement (FTA) entered into effect. The Ambassador noted
the importance of alternative development in counternarcotics
efforts. End summary.

New Ministry Structure and Goals


2. (SBU) In a meeting with the Ambassador on March 8,
Minister of Agriculture Hugo Salvatierra explained that the
new Ministry of Rural Development and Agriculture had taken
over the tasks of two and a half ministries, i.e., the former
Agriculture Ministry, the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs, and
land/biodiversity/forestry/coca issues from the Ministry of
Sustainable Development. His ministry was currently
consulting with civil groups, including businesses, farmers,
fishermen, and owners of cattle and camelids, to obtain their
input into the National Development Plan, due to be presented
by the GOB at the end of April. Salvatierra said that his
ministry would work on four themes: land redistribution and
titling, production stimulation, expanding markets, and
improving access to financing.

Focus on Land Redistribution and Titling


3. (SBU) Throughout the conversation, Salvatierra, with a
background in law, human rights, and indigenous issues,
emphasized his focus on resolving Bolivia’s land conflict.
He stressed the need for implementing expedited titling
procedures, particularly in the eastern and northern parts of
the country, "where cattle have more land than human beings."
According to Salvatierra, land redistribution and titling
has been going on for the past ten years, but even though USD
87 million has been spent on the process only 14% of the
national land had been titled. He explained that the current
titling procedure requires 704 days on average if there is no
opposition, and that the law provides for an expedited
procedure that has never been used. He said the government
would implement an expedited procedure, focusing on
conflictive areas with large, unproductive land holdings,
particularly Santa Cruz, the Beni, and the Chaco, and that
this would help achieve a "legal, economic, and social
solution" to Bolivia’s land conflicts.

Concern for Small Soy Farmers


4. (SBU) Salvatierra mentioned that Bolivian soy producers
were alarmed by the announcement that once the FTA went into
effect, U.S. soy beans and soy meal would gain immediate
duty-free access to the Colombian market — one of Bolivian
soy producers’ main export destinations (reftel). He said
that Bolivia needed to open discussions with the U.S. and
other Andean nations on trade issues, as well as to seek
alternative markets. He said the Agriculture ministry
planned to discuss options with company associations and
small producers organizations, expressing particular concern
about small producers, whom he said produced 40% of Bolivia’s
soy products and whose lack of infrastructure and diversified
markets would cause them to suffer the most harm from the
U.S.-Colombia FTA.

Alternative Development


5. (SBU) The Ambassador noted the importance of alternative
development in counternarcotics efforts. The Director of
USAID described the success of alternative development
projects, including the promotion of pineapple, palm heart,
and banana exports (2.5 million boxes of bananas in 2005).
The Polecon Councilor mentioned that the U.S. Department of
Agriculture opened an APHIS (Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service) office in Santa Cruz last year, which had
successfully collaborated with the Bolivian equivalent
organization (SENASAG) to combat hoof and mouth disease and
implement other animal health surveillance programs.

Comment:


6. (SBU) Even though he hails from Santa Cruz, Bolivia’s most
productive agricultural region, Salvatierra has little
background in agriculture. After he placed third as the MAS
candidate in the Santa Cruz prefect election, syndicates and
campesino organizations reportedly recommended him for the
Minister of Agriculture slot. In this position, Salvatierra
wants to bring to the eastern lowlands of Bolivia the kind of
land reform that occurred in the western highlands in the
1950s. While he apparently feels such reform might defuse
social tension, large landholders and cattle ranchers in
Santa Cruz and the Beni who have much to lose disagree. So
do independent analysts who believe that the 1950s land
reform effort, by subdividing land into ever smaller
individual plots good only for subsistence farming, only
guaranteed the poverty of altiplano peasants. It did this,
they say, by preventing the kind of large-scale farming that
has enabled the eastern lowlands to prosper. End comment.
GREENLEE