Landownership in Mexico

As someone who has lived in rural Mexico studying the ejido communal land system, I find the front-page article "Mexican Agricultural Reforms Set Stage For a New Revolution," Nov. 21, very informative.Regarding the changes in rural land ownership outlined in the article: As Mexico continues to liberalize land ownership regulations, the livelihood of campesinos (poor farmers) will not improve commensurate to the broader economy. The changes in the ejido system proposed by Mexican President Salinas de Gortari will only further marginalize campesinos. The production from ejidos is far from internationally competitive and, as the article states, is not sufficient to feed the country. But blame should not be placed solely on the ejido system, nor on the land. The campesinos - with small plots and little modern equipment - are victims of economies of scale and unfair pricing, and lack the political clout necessary to change their situation. Therefore, many perfectly arable plots lie fallow as the title holders work the seasonal harvests in California or in the factories of Mexico City. Mr. Salinas's proposals do not take these aspects into account because their objective is not to help poor farmers - it is expansion of a modern market based on cheap labor. Without a doubt, the long outdated ejido provisions need reevaluation; yet the radical changes proposed by Salinas will only help dissolve campesino livelihood and expose the poor to the insensitivities of the emerging global market. The changes evolving from free-trade negotiations need to encompass the needs of the poor. Robbie Weis, Petaluma, Calif.

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