Remember how last year, the Minister for Agrarian Reform, his employees and a load of Guarani people were kidnapped, beaten up and threatened by cartoon-baddy estate owner Ronald Larsen as they went about trying to establish legal titling for indigenous lands in the East? No?
Larsen’s the rancher from Montana who moved to Bolivia in the late 60s and, along with his family, bought up land three times the size of the city of Santa Cruz. Luckily for him, like many estates in the area, his ranch came with a captive labour force of indigenous Guarani people, who have been working there in conditions of servitude ever since.
Last year, a fact-finding mission from the Inter-American Human Rights Commission of the Organisation of American States and the Bolivian government investigated forced labour and servitude on various large estates in Santa Cruz and other departments, and found that hundreds of Guarani families were living in conditions ‘analogous to slavery’, where landowners had supplanted the State and were operating with impunity, obliging people to work for laughably low pay or none at all, preventing them from getting an education or living in humane conditions, limiting their movements and violently repressing attempts to organise, create or join a trade union or speak to human rights organisations.
Even after being held at gunpoint by Larsen’s thugs for a couple of days and then kicked out of the area, the personnell from the Ministry of Agrarian Reform returned later on last year to carry on with the investigations and legal processes to find out if the land on this estate and others was held legally, and if people were being forced to live in conditions of servitude, in violation of various international laws (and, you know, basic human decency). They found a whole shitload of weapons, to start with, and they must have found evidence of substantial human rights violations, because guess what? The Larsens and several other
arseholes with feudal pretensions large landholders are having their estates confiscated. I know, I know, but it’s so hard to get the help these days! I mean, have you ever tried running a 15,262 hectare estate without a captive workforce who’ll carry out forced labour under physical threat? It’s a nightmare, Matilda. One’s heart simply bleeds for those poor wee oligarchs kicked off their humble thirty-thousand-acre fincas.
Or, in the words of one of my poetic compatriots:
Here’s the full story at Bolpress. (Incidentally, can someone have a word with the webmasters at Los Tiempos and La Prensa, PLEASE? I had links to the stories they ran about these events archived, and it looks like they’ve just not bothered storing online editions for 2007 and 2008, leaving me with a load of useless dead links. WTF arg etc – I don’t like only using Bolpress as the source, but they’re the only ones who take the trouble to make sure their old links work!)
My translation into English under the cut: