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Land occupation in "Paso Viejo"

Date interview: September 9 2016
Name interviewer: Santiago Garrido
Name interviewee: Anonymous
Position interviewee: Member of APENOC. Participant of the accupation

Social-spatial relations Re-orientation Radicalization Providing alternatives to institutions New Doing Local/regional government Internal decision-making For-profit enterprises Expertise Challenging institutions

This is a CTP of initiative: La Via Campesina/APENOC (Argentina)

This CTP is related to the land occupation process that APENOC carried out in 2006. This CTP was a milestone in the organization's trajectory because it marked a turning point in which the APENOC left defensive actions as the defense against the evictions, by an aggressive attitude advancing in the occupation of new lands.

In october of 2006, APENOC carried out a massive occupation of two rural estates in the place of Paso Viejo in the north of Cordoba. The occupied lands were fiscal lands according to the policy of "Colonization and Agrarian Reorganization provincial Law 5487/72. These policies were created in December of the year 1972 with the aim of generating an equitable distribution of the land and the improvement of the peasant life.

The case is relevant because there are very few land-grabbing processes - in rural spaces - driven by social organizations that have come to light, but whether cases of resistance to forced evictions generated by the expanded reproduction of the capitalist system in Its recent phase and whose process has been called "the agricultural frontier expansion". In this way, the Paso Viejo case represents a process that goes against the dynamics in which peasant production advanced on land that was reserved for agribusiness.

In this way, we can said that APENOC was strengthened in actions aimed at preventing the eviction of peasant families, the strength obtained allowed the occupation of two parcels between the years 2006 and 2007, belonging to the Plan of Colonization of the fiscal land "Paso Viejo", implemented in the year 1987.

The members of the organization knew the existence of this Plan of Colonization and its deficient application. At that juncture, the organization presented a project for the production and settlement of 40 families in 12 continuous parcels, as well as the construction of a school, a health center and infrastructure necessary for its habitability and a diversified production plan with a Crops rotation scheme to produce in 480 hectares under irrigation.

Faced with this proposal, the provincial government agrees to grant, in principle, two parcels immediately, while analyzing the proposal. Nonetheless, breach of this promise after a previous process of discussion led the organization to make effective the possession, developing diverse practices and strategies that allowed its territorialization in the parcels.


In this CTP, co-production developed between existing legislation for more than 30 years, its partial application and the increase of the capacity of the peasant organization to take advantage of the blind spots of the colonization regime in its favor.

To this goal, APENOC worked together with other actors as international organizations:

"Through international cooperation has been agreed to know clearly what happened in the area of plots (...) then it was possible to construct and collect information in a very serious way and that allowed to build the complaint about the amount Of irregularities that there in the in use, tenure, management of the lands. There is a very strong water issue, then, well, there was a moment there was space for that and there were partners willing, then began to work with the State the idea To access land in that place "

On the other hand, in this process there were other actors involved who had benefited from the allocation of parcels and they disputed the lands with APENOC:

"We did not go to occupy the parcels that were being used, they are lots that were unoccupied or underutilized ... that is the reason of those places and not others ... the legal status that those lands had at the moment of occupying them, was a state Juridical that they were in right of the State, (...) the State had the legal possession and not a private possessor, that is what made the discussion easier, because it was between the State and us" 

This type of conflict generated the need to involve new strategies and actors:

"We started to play with other tools that we have, that is not only the direct confrontation in the territory that is one, but other tools within the legal actions, the press, political pressure, and territory too ... well, We went and prevented them from giving the water, because they moved the soil to irrigate, we prevented them from giving the water (...), we prevented them from maintaining the enclosure they were doing, they were dividing the parcel... We expect them to wear out as well, and we pressured the governmental level to resolve the case ... it was resolved, we ended up being in the territory ... afterwards there were, since there, there were conflicts but territory outside and good , Had to endure a little..."

Related events

In 1972, the governor of the province of Cordoba approved Provincial Law 5487/72 of Colonization and provincial reorganization. In the north of the province, infrastructure works were also implemented, including the construction of the Pichanas dam in 1978, to supply the lands with water.

In 1987 the project of colonization of the area was developed, 55 parcels of approximately 100 hectares each were delimited and a legal framework was defined referring to the adjudications, bases and regulations, as well as to the obligations of the contractors in which they are framed. The conditions to make use of and effective possession of the parcels. This project was carried out to facilitate access to these lands to farmers in the area, so that, living there as an unavoidable condition, they would work more productively through improvements in the irrigation system.

With the time and the changes of state management, the original project was denaturalized and these parcels never arrived at the hands of the peasants and they remained in property of rural businessmen who do not live the place and today they exploit them with extractive criteria.

At present, the parcels are mostly exploited by local businessmen:

"most of the plots - 80% - were concentrated in the hands of businessmen who leased, bought parcels and produced at the expense of the work of families in the area, Exploiting them and violating all the requirements to access colonization."

In addition to the irregularities observed in the distribution of land, the same happens with the distribution of water for irrigation and human consumption provided through the Pichanas Dam.

Thus, in the wake of the repeated complaints that were made due to the irregularity of the parcels, the provincial state annulled the allocation of the parcels in 2005 by Decree No. 1536/05.


The process of occupation of the Parcels in Paso Viejo responds to the very objectives of the APENOC that considers its own existence as a way of claiming to the State the guarantee of the rights to a life worthy of the peasant families. Thus, taking possession of the parcels puts in tension the role of the State to guarantee those rights.

The members of the organization give an account of how they come to define the land occupy in the parcels and how that process of territorialization occurred. Once the State was requested to allocate the parcels by submitting the project, in which the 12 parcels are requested, and after the breach of a verbal commitment that had been obtained, the decision is made to occupy them:

"We did not go to occupy the parcels that were being used, they are lots that were unoccupied or underutilized ... that is the reason of those places and not others ... the legal status that those lands had at the moment of occupying them, was a state Juridical that they were in right of the State, (...) the State had the legal possession and not a private possessor, that is what made the discussion easier, because it was between the State and us"

"We began to settle with fear, with businessmen who were going to pressure, with others who were not going to pressure but who were going to see, but that way they put pressure on you, the police that were going to verify, the police That was going to break us down for alleged wire robberies, for many things, to put pressure on us, to make us afraid, to put pressure ..."


In this CTP, it can be observed that the organization had planned to a large extent what was going to happen. In 2005, the organization produced a report on the condition of the parcels in which the data of the initial contractors (1987) are released, who was producing it at that moment and the type of production it was performing.This report reveals cases of leases in the parcels along with the lack of infrastructure developed in them and the predominance of some crops over others. The use made of this territory does not correspond to the legal framework that regulates the use and use of plots that defines, among other things, that they must be inhabited and worked by the successful tenderers together with their family.

From this information, the APENOC made several denunciations that forced the provincial state to issue Decree No. 1536/05. Thus, the APENOC generated the conditions that generated the possibility of presenting its production project for 12 plarcels. When they obtained the verbal commitment of the authorities to give them two parcels, the APENOC initiated the occupation plan:

"Time passed and we did not access the lots, then the discussion was freezing, we had identified the parcels and entered the lot and then they handed it to us ... the tenure, the state recognized the tenancy and we begin to produce, and then (...) because we received a verbal commitment of two lots, we requested 12 and we received a commitment of 2 ... then we made effective, with pressure, we made that commitment effective, without harming third parties, let's say ... "


In terms of learning, the "Paso Viejo" case represents a novel case in the history of social movements in Argentina. APENOC's own trajectory was similar to that of most of the peasant movements that organized and acted in defense of their lands against the advance of the agricultural frontier. But in the case of Paso Viejo they incorporated a new strategy oriented to the incorporation of new lands making playing in its favor the current legislation and the blind spots of the dominant system. In this process legal knowledge, political negotiation skills and communication strategies were put into play.

The participants in the process also recognize the incorporation of learning associated with production in these new lands as a key element to legitimize their rights:

"There were people who went adding and from that began production, got the irrigation water was started production, and well ... it was giving (...), people who added, some families that add up , Families who withdraw because they loosen up, because they believe that the experience is good but it is not for them and things like that ... they take distance, and they are learning that are going around, they are not failures of themselves, but they are learning "

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