This source is related to the agrarian reform in Chile under the government of President Frei. It is a 1966 government pamphlet created by the Christian Democrats in response to a speech that the president gave to the peasant leaders, and it is separated into three main parts: current problems with the agrarian system in Chile, propositions of the reform and how the agrarian reform would affect current landowners. The context of the agrarian reform was that, historically, the majority of landowners were aristocrats who were more focused on their own social status and political power rather than the agricultural benefits that their land could have for the country. President Frei, and President Alessandri before him, were the two leaders who got the ball rolling with the agrarian reform, but due to lack of results and empty promises, many of the disillusioned peasants who were expecting to become landowners ended up turning their backs on the Christian Democratic government and supporting Salvador Allende.
The pamphlet itself, as mentioned, is split into sections. The first one provides a number of alarming statistics that essentially laid out the fact that there was a lot more land that could be cultivated than was being cultivated. This section and the following one, laying out the proposal for land redistribution and peasant empowerment, clearly demonstrates how the government was trying to position themselves on the side of the peasants so they could win their vote. Curiously enough, the last section does not refer to the peasants, but rather states that a mere 0.02% of the landowners would be affected by the reform, and that those who were abiding by the law and acting as upstanding citizens would remain untouched.
- The pamphlet mentions that only about 5,000 of the 250,000 landowners in Chile would be affected by the agrarian reform. How much of a “reform” could this really be if there were 3 million peasants that would be involved in the redistribution of land?
- How and why did the land reform function better under Allende’s government than it did under the Christian Democratic government of Frei and even Alessandri before him?