and people on it, and later they consider them usurpers. The shepherd has no papers, but inherited possession from grandparents who settled decades ago.”
More subtle is the way water, without which there can be no production, has been appropriated. “The process of appropriation of water consisted in diverting rivers to farms that belong to the oligarchy,” explains Manota. “Just 3 percent of territory in the province is irrigated; they are the richest lands because they diverted the rivers. The other 97 percent is known as ‘dry land,’ and is associated with the idea of ‘desert.’ There are no fincas, just fields. Of that 97 percent, more than half are campesinos farming communally.”
International capital is advancing over those fields. The price paid for land is ridiculous compared to the price paid in countries in the North. “A hectare bought legally is worth 10,000 pesos ($2,500), but they end up paying 500 and or just 100 pesos ($125 to $25) by forging titles. The conflict with the Spanish company involves speculative capital. Since they pay very little for land, they have a lot of money left over to invest. They’ve drilled illegal wells to water the olive trees, which leaves the rest without water,” he explains.
With current technology, they don’t have to buy land with water rights, which is always more expensive. Instead they can buy dry land that can be irrigated with very deep wells–up to 300 meters–and an enormous deployment of machinery. Manuel says that 60 percent of the farms in the zone are abandoned because of the effect of the crisis on the productive model; many producers went bankrupt. “They stop cultivating, but the water bills keep coming until they owe more than the farm is worth. That’s when all the maneuvering begins with law firms and intermediaries who forge property titles.”
Lena adds that many “investors” receive subsidies from the state without any environmental impact studies. A network of corruption, beginning in Buenos Aires, led to several titles being applied to the same land. “The limited resource, the one that is going to generate the value of land, is water. That’s why they appropriate it.” Corruption has allowed for the violation of one of the market’s most sacred laws: As demand for land increases, the price decreases.
There is a process by which ownership of land becomes concentrated, says Facundo. “A third of the
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