AGRICULTURE MINISTER ON APHIS AND LAND REFORM

Código Fecha Clasificación Origen
06LAPAZ1651 19 June 2006 Solo uso oficial Embassy La Paz

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STATE FOR WHA/AND L.PETRONI
TREASURY FOR SGOOCH
ENERGY FOR CDAY AND SLADISLAW

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR, ECON, ETRD, USDA, USTR, BL
SUBJECT: AGRICULTURE MINISTER ON APHIS AND LAND REFORM

REF: A. STATE 95277

B. LA PAZ 1517
C. LA PAZ 1337

1. (SBU) Summary: Econoff delivered talking points from ref
A on APHIS regulatory changes to Minister of Agriculture
Salvatierra on June 16. Salvatierra claimed that the MAS and
its land reform program had capitalist, not socialist, goals
promoting production and efficient land use. He indicated
that the GOB would seek to redistribute land held by cattle
ranchers in the East, as well as land held by Brazilians who
were violating Bolivian regulations. He demonstrated his
western/highlander bias by arguing that migrants from the
western highlands and foreigners developed Santa Cruz, rather
than eastern natives, and blamed the GOB-business dialogue
failure (ref B) on the businesses’ lack of unity and
direction. Although the 2.2 million hectares of government
land being distributed to indigenous communities does not
include national parks and protected areas, it does include
forestry concessions owned by businesses that employ 5,000
people. Salvatierra concluded that the GOB’s next steps
would be redistributing privately-held idle land and
implementing expedited titling procedures. End summary.

Talking Points on Proposed APHIS Changes Delivered


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2. (U) Econoff delivered talking points from ref A along with
additional information from APHIS’ website to Minister of
Agriculture Hugo Salvatierra on June 16. The Minister said
that the Ministry would review the proposed changes and
respond prior to the June 26 deadline if they had comments.

Minister Claims MAS Has Capitalist Goals


3. (SBU) Salvatierra told Econoff that the President’s
political party, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), had a
capitalist program, not a socialist one (despite the name).
He claimed that the GOB’s agrarian reform plan (ref B) was
aimed at promoting production and efficient use of land, and
that the large landholders in the eastern departments of
Santa Cruz, Pando, and Beni were not capitalists. He added
that because many of these large landholders had received
their vast estates for next to nothing and paid almost no
land taxes, they had not invested in them and not utilized
them as capitalists would. He further stated that cattle
ranchers, particularly in Beni and Pando, needed to modernize
their production. He explained that these ranchers claimed
they needed 22 hectares per head of cattle, which the GOB
viewed as excessive, unproductive use of land — implying
that the GOB would attempt to redistribute rancher lands.

The East-West Divide


4. (SBU) Salvatierra argued that Santa Cruz natives were not
productive, but merely held monopoly power over markets and
commerce. He said that 40 percent of agricultural production
in Santa Cruz was by peasant farmers that had migrated from
the highlands, and another 40 percent was by foreigners
(Mennonites, Brazilians, Russians, etc.). He demonstrated
his western/highlander bias by arguing that these people were
responsible for the development of the East, not Santa Cruz
natives. He said that the dialogue with large agriculture
business associations had broken down because the businessmen
"did not know what they wanted" and were not unified.

Brazilian Soy Farmers


5. (U) Salvatierra explained that many Brazilians had
purchased or were renting Bolivian land, because land in
Bolivia was five times less expensive than in Brazil. (The
Brazilian Embassy told us previously that 115 Brazilian-owned
farms produced 60 percent of Bolivia’s soy (ref C).) Many of
these Brazilians, he said, were harming the environment or
violating regulations and would thus be subject to losing
their lands. He assured us that those Brazilians who were
following Bolivian laws and regulations would not have their
lands taken away.

Redistributed Government Land Includes Forestry Concessions


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6. (U) Salvatierra said that the 2.2 million hectares of
government lands that were being distributed to farmers and
indigenous communities (ref B) did not include land from
national parks or protected areas, but did include land being
used in certified forestry production. He recognized the
importance of maintaining environmentally-sound practices in
these areas. The Bolivian Forestry Chamber told us that the
National Agrarian Reform Institute (INRA), the government
body in charge of titling, recently issued five resolutions
ceding eight forestry concessions to indigenous communities.
The eight affected forestry businesses, which employ 5,000
people, claim that the resolutions violate their legal rights
under the Constitution and Forestry Law, putting into danger
all forestry concessions, respect for the rule of law, and
local employment.

The Next Steps in Land Reform


7. (U) Salvatierra told us that in addition to distributing
government-owned land, the GOB intended to redistribute idle
privately-owned land to the landless under the current land
law, a step likely to engender significant conflict. The
Constitutional Assembly would likely undertake a revision of
the 1996 Agrarian Reform Law, he said. He added that his
office was working on updating land titling procedures, which
should be completed within a week. The expedited procedures
would allow applicants to obtain title within six months,
compared to more than two years under current procedures, he
explained.

8. (SBU) Comment: The GOB’s recent land reform measures will
surely boost its popularity among the masses, but are likely
to generate increasing regional conflict, particularly as
land redistribution begins. The redistribution of land over
which forestry businesses held concessions to indigenous
communities without discussion or compensation is a bad omen
for Bolivia’s world-leading certified forestry sector and
private property rights. End comment.
GREENLEE