Monday, April 19, 2010

Rural poverty in Colombia

Juan Forero at the Washington Post looks at the persistence of poverty in rural Colombia, something that is too rarely mentioned in the drug/guerrilla war context.

The other Colombia is one of rising inequality, the only major country in Latin America in which the gap between rich and poor has increased in recent years, according to a report by the U.N. Economic Commission on Latin America. The percentage of Colombians who are indigent also rose, from 20.2 percent in 2007 to nearly 23 percent in 2008, nearly double the region's average.

 The guerrilla conflict, meanwhile, has uprooted 5 million people in 25 years and has helped ensure that more than 60 percent of rural Colombians remain poor, according to Ricardo Bonilla, an expert on poverty at Bogota's National University.

I suppose one could argue that you have to address the violence before you can really tackle poverty.  However, those government policies aimed at rural development consciously ignore the poor because they aren't sufficiently productive.

But even government officials acknowledge that poverty remains widespread in the countryside. Indigent sharecroppers are relegated to the poorest soil, working land without title, while a swath the size of Virginia is in the hands of drug traffickers and corrupt politicians, said Alejandro Reyes, an expert on land and author of a recent book, "Warriors and Peasants: The Plundering of Land in Colombia."

Reyes said the Uribe administration places a priority on funneling aid to the biggest farms because the government thinks they are best suited to revive the rural economy. "The government thinks that the peasantry are not good producers, that they don't know how to save, how to assimilate technologies," Reyes said.

That philosophy was crystallized through the Insured Agro Income program, which provided most of a $250 million annual fund to sugar, palm oil and other large agricultural sectors.

In this desperately poor state of Magdalena, four families received most of the $10 million provided in 2007 and 2008, records show. Among those that benefited were various branches of the politically influential Vives family, which received $6.5 million. 

What Forero should also have mentioned is a historic lack of state presence in the countryside.  This is not just a matter of aid or spending, but a commitment to connecting far-flung communities to the rest of the country by working on infrastructure, effective local public administration, etc.

4 comments:

Jim Hadstate 9:01 AM  

"I suppose one could argue that you have to address the violence before you can really tackle poverty. However, those government policies aimed at rural development consciously ignore the poor because they aren't sufficiently productive."

Address the violence BEFORE you can really tackle poverty?!? Come on Greg, even a college professor can't be that far into the ivory tower. There is no chicken or egg thing here. The poverty caused the violence. You know that. In fact, I think that I have even seen you write briefly or maybe just imply that FARC began as a movement to demanding land reform in Colombia, not a full blown revolutionary army. It only adopted the Armed Forces nomenclature AFTER it was unsuccessful in getting any resolution to the land equity issue. Then if devolved still further when it became a narcotraficante syndicate to finance its violence.
You cannot fix the violence things before you fix the financial injustice and land equity issues in Colombia. You have a PhD in Pol. Sci. with major concentration in Latin America. Where has the political violence all but died away? Where has the economic violence of the last 500 years has finally been subdued and the victims of that violence now have a hope of getting back at least something of what they have been denied or forever lost in these last 500 years.
Social justice equals peace. Continued injustice means never any peace, only uneasy short truces for re-arming. Solve the poverty problem and the rest of the problems melt into the jungle and become manageable.

Vicente Duque 5:39 PM  

Four or Five Years ago Alvaro Uribe announced on Television :

"We have signed a wonderful Free Trade Agreement with the USA. So this is going to work wonders for Colombia."

"Since critics say that we are going to harm the poor peasants with this treaty, then we are going to give agricultural subsidies to the poorest "campesinos" ( peasants )"

Those monies of "Agro Ingreso Seguro" were given only to the Richest Land Owners, to the relatives, friends and supporters of Alvaro Uribe. Many millions of dollars, the poor saw nothing.

The Colombian Government has always been a thief : it steals from the poor ( in taxes ) and gives to the rich.

This is a Robin Hood State to the minus one powers, a Reverse Robin Hood, or Anti-Robin.

And the Constitutional Court of Colombia has declared that the hasty and rushed decrees of Alvaro Uribe with respect to Health Care Reform are unconstitutional.

A Joke : Alvaro Uribe has a beautiful Secretary Girl, 18 years Old. And Alvaro says : "come on miss, bring your note pad, because we are going to legislate".

And the Colombian Congress ???

A bunch of pocket fools or paraco scoundrels !

Who can deny that this Colombian Government has a Great Paraco origin ??

Even other presidential candidates said so in past elections !


The Future of Foreign Policies :

Prophesizing.com

Vicente Duque

Anonymous,  7:52 PM  

I am thinking that since the Agricultural Revolution began in 17c Netherlands and England the basic trend has remained the same. Overpopulated rural areas send migrants to cities looking for work and opportunity. While many are sentimental about rural culture, the poverty of the rural areas is worse than the industrial poverty what awaits in the mega-cities. The peasants vote with their feet. Farming has and will continue to need less people as countries develop economically. The modernization of agriculture includes large enough farms to provide economies of scale, mechanization, fertilizers and irrigation systems as well as sufficient capital to ride out price fluctuations of a global market. Trying to keep the poor on the land through government transfers is probably not the best way to go to develop the countryside.

Boli-Nica 2:39 PM  


Address the violence BEFORE you can really tackle poverty?!? Come on Greg, even a college professor can't be that far into the ivory tower. There is no chicken or egg thing here. The poverty caused the violence. You know that. In fact, I think that I have even seen you write briefly or maybe just imply that FARC began as a movement to demanding land reform in Colombia, not a full blown revolutionary army. It only adopted the Armed Forces nomenclature AFTER it was unsuccessful in getting any resolution to the land equity issue. Then if devolved still further when it became a narcotraficante syndicate to finance its violence.


That is absurd.

The conflict(s) in rural Colombia have been prolonged beyond logic, because of the FARC and drug dealing. The drug dealing created conditions for the FARC - basically a Stalinist peasant army whose existence is premised on waging war on the Colombian state and install a marxisting regime - to enhance its capabilities beyond the expiration date of its idiotic totalitarian ideology.
Drug dealing basically also greatly enhanced the paramilitary bands - paid for by cartel chiefs, landowners and political bosses, whose existence is premised on protecting new and old landholdings paid for by the drug money, securing routes for production and export of drugs.

And that conflict fueld by drug money - a conflict for coca growing areas, smuggling routes, lab areas - is what has driven a lot of the fighting and displacements.
This conflict, fought between the FARC and the paras on the one hand, and the FARC against the State (with the paras as allies),
effectively screens off enormous chunks of Colombian territory from effective State control. And the FARC - unlike the paras- are also fighting a war threatening the very existence of the Colombian State, attacking all its civilian and military institutions. Which is one reason why they are so unpopular - you blow up electrical towers and you are hated.

But, the bottom line is that you eliminate the FARC, or at least move it out of key areas, and deprive it off access to drug funds, you take a huge part of the conflict out. It then becomes a straighforward anti-narcotics fight, and civilian state infraestructure can be moved in. But the FARC perpetuate the cycle of violence in a major way.

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