Cristóbal Kay, “The Agrarian Question and the Neoliberal Rural Transformation in Latin America,” European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies / Revista Europea De Estudios Latinoamericanos Y Del Caribe, no. 100 (2015): 73-83.

In the article, Kay sets out to analyze the questions that have surfaced as agrarian policies have shifted across Latin America.  Latin America has largely experienced an agricultural revolution due to the influx of neoliberal policies throughout the region. The resulting policies have led to changes across every viable section of farming; mainly affecting land, labor, and production. Land ownership has decreased among peasants, also decreasing their likelihood to subsist without working for someone else as a wage-laborer. Additionally, land-grabbing has increased as corporate farming replaces small peasant holdings. Farm workers have been forced to abandon their own practices as corporations thrive under the open markets and trade agreements of the neoliberal governments. As they continue to be displaced, urbanization has seen a steady rise as rural populations have seen a continual decline. Furthermore, the types of crops sought after for cultivation vary from the traditional staple crops and risk changing the soil composition, affecting generations of farmers and consumers alike. Flexible crops that can be used for food, cattle feed, and/or biofuels are surging in popularity, but these cash crops have horrible consequences for the environment. The most notorious of these is soy, which is also the leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon. Land ownership decreases as neoliberal policies open up the territory to corporations and their large scale business practices that work together to push out smaller scale operations. This leads to a displacement of people as they are force to migrate to the cities for job opportunities. Furthermore, individuals are forced into wage labor since they can no longer rely on subsistence farming. Additionally, production is affected as the crops harvested change to cash crops to serve the interests of corporations. These business practices are damaging to the environment as they contribute greatly to deforestation.

Kay does a good job of analyzing the effects of neoliberal policy across a few key areas of Latin America, but fails to address the actual policies that are contributing most the displacement and degradation happening across the region. While there could be more political  specificity, Kay ties the effects of neoliberalism directly to the changing landscapes throughout Latin America. Additionally, he provides exceptional detail to the issues of land, labor, and production which he has deemed most affected by policy changes.

Kay’s writing focuses primarily on Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil when providing statistical evidence. My research will center around Venezuela. While I will not be able to use the statistical data provided, I can still it for context of the region as a whole.

The image above is from an Argentine protest against the corporate land concentration taking place. Kay details this issue in great detail, often drawing on Argentina for case specific evidence..

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