Colonial control over food and land concentration worsen inequalities in southern countries | Critical conversations










Editor’s Note: As a Brazilian studying in the United States, understanding that the rain irrigating the Global North to its prosperity is the same that drowns my home country and the entire Global South in a sub- eternal development was almost inevitable. Inspired by Joaquín Torres-García’s drawing, “América Invertida”, “Our North Is The South” is a chronicle that highlights these colonial processes and the illusions of recycled colonialism.

Occupations, land reform and land disputes are making headlines across Latin America. But the unequal distribution of land is far from a new problem in the region, especially in Brazil.

The problems of land concentration in Brazil began during colonization five centuries ago. At the time, Brazil was a colony of the Portuguese crown.

“The engine of Latin American history, [after] this moment of invasion is the problem of the land, ”said Ileana Rodriguez-Silva, associate professor of Latin American and Caribbean history. “Even though there are different power systems like race, ethnicity and gender, the only thing [that] is like an engine that moves things and immediately mobilizes people, it is the earth. ”

The colonization of Brazil by Portugal began with the hereditary captaincies. This policy divided the Brazilian territory into 15 large strips of land which were given to trusted people of the Crown.

This changed in 1850 after Brazil’s independence, when the Brazilian Empire enacted the Land Law, so the only way to acquire rural property was through purchase. This further accelerated the land acquisition process, limiting the scope of those who could acquire land to only the wealthy.

In the second half of the 20th century, the The Green Revolution, a modernization of production in the countryside mediated by government policies, has brought about profound changes in the structure of production in Brazil.

The adoption of an agricultural production model based on monoculture and large landholdings, as well as the advancement of the agricultural frontier towards the central and northern regions of Brazil, resulted in the rise of unemployed rural workers. and intensified the concentration of land by the rich.

Currently, rural properties of 1000 hectares (10,000 square meters) represent 0.91% of properties in Brazil and concentrate 45% of the total area for agricultural production. In contrast, holdings of less than 10 hectares account for around 47% of total rural properties but occupy less than 2.3% of the total rural area. The latter produces more than 70% of the food that arrives on the Brazilian table, since large monocultures export most of their production, according to Oxfam Brazil.

Those who own the land work according to the same logic as the colonial owners. At the time, the owners were devoted to the crown; now they are dedicated to profit and capital.

Globally, the food system is dominated by imperialist powers like the United States, the world’s largest food exporter. The neoliberal policies of the end of the 20th century opened up the markets to agricultural production heavily subsidized by the Global North. Rural economies have thus become even more linked and subordinate to the global agro-industry.

The agricultural empire operates largely through political and financial mechanisms, preceded in some cases by military coups, like those funded by the United States in Latin America, imperial interventions and destabilization campaigns.

For example, in the 1970s, the United States imposed sanctions on the Chilean socialist government and forced the price of copper, Chile’s main export product, to fall on the international market. In addition, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) funded strikes with the aim of crippling the Chilean economy, culminating in a military coup on September 11, 1973.

Once established, the new regime imposed a neoliberal agenda, which included promoting agro-export strategies and suppressing any local land reform movement.

“Those authoritarian regimes that were closer to right-wing politics and a neoliberal and capitalist type orientation really did not carry out land reform that benefited the people,” Rodriguez-Silva said.

Free market policies have eliminated or reduced tariff barriers on subsidized food imports from the United States and Europe, bankrupting local farmers and increasing the amount of land available for “rental” – appropriation by the government. new agro-empire and multinational companies

Agreements and contract terms are unequal. Food and agricultural products are almost entirely exported to the domestic markets of Imperial countries, even when the population of the “host country” is hungry and dependent on emergency food shipments from Imperial “humanitarian” agencies.

As seen in Brazil, locals collect beef bones thrown in butcher shops to feed their families, even though the country is the world’s largest meat exporter.

“The inequality between the West and the rest of the world is institutional,” said Christoph Giebel, associate professor of international studies and history. “We see this practically everywhere, and it has its roots in the systems of imperialism, colonialism and slavery in the Western Hemisphere for the past… or so the last 300 years.

We owe a historic debt to poor peasants and to indigenous and black peoples. The unequal concentration of land is a social, political and economic problem that spans the entire history of the countries of the South, particularly in Latin America, from colonization to the present day.

There have been ruptures within the system, such as the Land Law of 1850, but the permanence of a system that preserves the vast majority of land in the hands of a few continues.

Land inequality is fundamentally linked to political inequality: the more land there is, the more political power there is. When the majority of land is in the hands of a few, it consequently increases inequalities in income and wealth. Thus, policies that support those in power tend to be favored by the public, while policies that benefit the poor, the landless, smallholders, indigenous peoples, women and family farmers are not. not.

Contact writer Victor Simoes at [email protected] Twitter: @victorhaysser

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