Politics and land reform: the case of Esperanza, the Dominican Republic

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1992-02-05
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Virginia Tech
Abstract

The case of Esperanza in the Dominican Republic illustrates graphically that land reform is used by governmental leaders as a political tool; although land reform is continuously promised in the Dominican Republic, it is rarely delivered. The state has realized autonomy from class factions by alternately appeasing different class factions (Grindle 1986). The promise and occasional delivery of land reform in the Dominican Republic is one of the most powerful tools the governmental leaders have to appease the Dominican peasantry. Through the promise of reform, governmental leaders are able to control the rural campesinos while the economic position of the peasantry is continually compromised; campesinos are increasingly forced to live dualistic lives as wage laborers and farmers (de Janvry 1981; Grindle 1986).

This thesis centers attention on Esperanza, a small village in the northwestern part of the country. The sugar mill there has been closed, and the Dominican President Joaquin Balaguer has promised much of Esperanza's land to land reform. As I have shown, the promised land reform has been unsuccessful. Further, I suggest that the promise of reform in Esperanza was made more for pragmatic political reasons than for humanitarian ones. Balaguer was lacking support in his 1990 bid for reelection, and he used land reform in Esperanza both to bolster his weak standings at the polls and to stifle rumbling complaints about the other closed sugar mills whose land had gone exclusive to large land holders, Dole Pineapple for one, at the expense of the rural dwellers. Moreover, recipients of land in Esperanza were from Ba1aguer>s political party.

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