13 September 2006

No Benetton's Land

You may know that Argentina is up for sale. Not new really; our politicians have been selling it for a good profit since ever, but this time there's also the cheap peso. If you ask an Argentinian, he or she will reply, in a typical display of exaggeration, that Patagonia is already completely owned by foreigners (and probably add that they're buying out the northeast too, "because they want the water").

The indescribable piquetero-turned-politician Luis D'Elía has decided that he doesn't like the "foreignization" of our land. The other day he invaded the property of an American who had bought lands and allegedly shut off public roads. Now he's pointing at the Benetton's estate. Luciano and Carlo Benetton have a local company which owns 900,000 hectares of land in Chubut, Santa Cruz, Río Negro and Buenos Aires Province, mostly Patagonia. You have to remember that Patagonia is home to more sheep than people, but those people include indigenous tribes that have rights, and of course there's always the possibility that those wind-swept semi-arid lands can be irrigated and/or that there's oil underneath.

In any case, D'Elía chose not to go there with his band of thugs and the neighbors to cut the wire fences (as he did before) but is assembling a team of lawyers to take on Benetton. Many Argentinians don't like foreigners buying vast tracts of land, some for ideological (paranoid) reasons; others hold that private property and the offer/demand law are sacred, and that if the land is unused it makes sense to give it away for a few cents per hectare.

Yours truly, as usual, disagrees with both.

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