Who owns it? Three arguments for land claims in Latin America

Revista de Ciencia Politica 37 (3):713-736 (2017)

Authors
Christian Barry
Australian National University
Abstract
Indigenous and non-indigenous communities in Latin America make land claims and support them with a variety of arguments. Some, such as Zapatistas and the Mapuche, have appealed to the “ancestral” or “historical” connections between specific communities and the land. Other groups, such as MST in Brazil, have appealed to the extremely unequal distribution of the land and the effects of this on the poor; the land in this case is seen mainly as a means for securing a decent standard of living for members of disadvantaged groups. Although there is a large literature on the history as well as the social and political dimensions of land contestations and conflicts in Latin America, the question of whether the land claims put forward by disadvantaged groups can be morally justified has not been adequately examined. In this essay, we investigate the scope and limits of appeals to what we shall call assistance-based, contribution-based, and benefitting-based moral reasons with respect to land claims made by these disadvantaged groups.
Keywords territorial rights  land claims  indigenous rights  Latin America  Historical Injustice
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