Eliminating market distortions or perpetuating rural inequality? an evaluation of market-assisted land reform in Guatemala
Susana Gauster and S. Ryan Isakson, 2007
The signing of the Guatemalan Peace Accords in 1996 sought to end nearly four decades of civil war and to rectify what many have identified as the root cause of the violent conflict: the country’s extremely unequal distribution of land. To achieve this aim, the agreement embraces the strategy of market-assisted land reform. The agrarian strategy has done little to level the country’s agrarian structure, however, and rather than alleviating poverty, has indebted its intended beneficiaries. In part, the failure of the program is due to the limited political and financial support that it receives from policymakers. But its shortcomings are also rooted in the inherently flawed model of market-oriented land reform, a strategy that disembeds land from its political and cultural contexts and envisions it is nothing more than a transferable commodity. To placate demands for land, Guatemalan officials have implemented a land rental program that does little to redress the deep economic inequalities that plague Guatemala and underpin its political instability. A more comprehensive land reform is justified.