Agrofuels in Latin America Norma Giarraca is a lecturer in sociology at the Instituto Gino Germani in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She specialises in the study of social protest. The social structure of our agrarian sector went through a profound transformation in the early 1990s under President Meném. The whole institutional apparatus that had allowed the coexistence of big landowners, medium-sized farmers, peasant families and indigenous communities (which were already fairly disintegrated but were still on their land in the north and in some areas in the south) was abolished. Agriculture was opened up to the world market at a time when world commodity prices were dropping. This created a huge crisis and the government didn’t provide assistance. Many farmers didn’t recover. What emerged from this was what we call the modelo sojero (the soya model). This doesn’t refer just to the dominance of one crop, soya, but to the logic of agricultural expansion that lies behind this crop. This logic – the logic of agribusiness – is almost exclusively oriented towards the foreign market. It is different from the logic of the earlier phase of agro-industry, which was also geared towards domestic prices and the production of food for the country. It is true that there had always been a certain tension these two things – production for the foreign market and production for the domestic market – but they had coexisted. Indeed, industrialists required the country to provide food for workers. But with the new model this coexistence was destroyed and everything was geared towards the export market. This had serious consequences – the disappearance of other crops, a reduction in the number of tambos (dairy farms) and the advance of soya towards the cattle lands of the pampas, land which is not suited to arable farming. What I want to stress is that relations between the landowners (terratenientes), the middle-sized farmers and the peasant families faced a real crisis, a total crisis. It was not just a case of the landowners gaining dominance. Some of the traditional landowning class was, in fact, also opposed to the new model. But there was a part of the landowning class that formed an association with the new investors, the so-called “pool” of outside investors, who were putting money into soya, and with the agronomists who worked with them and introduced GM crops. This group began to take over the land of medium-sized farmers in the pampas. They used the very same mechanism which has been used in many parts of the world, including the USA and Canada, to take away land from medium-sized farmers – abundant loans and then a debt crisis. Ridiculous amounts of money were lent to the farmers, more than their land was worth, and then the loans were foreclosed and the farmers were forced to sell. There was resistance. An important movement called the Movimiento de Mujeres Agropecuarias de Lucha (Movement of Farming Women in Struggle) managed to stop more than 500–600 families losing their land, but this was only a drop in the ocean: thousands of expulsions occurred. The people who lost their land were the descendants of migrants who had arrived in Argentina at the beginning of the 20th century. The president of the women’s movement farmed land that she and her husband had inherited from her French father-in-law, who had arrived at the beginning of the century and acquired 90 hectares of land. But the soya farmers weren’t satisfied by taking over this land. The price of soya continued to rise and they moved north on to marginal land, beyond the rich lands of the pampas. And who lived in the north? Peasants who had been living there for more than 20 years, cultivating food crops and growing a few agro-industrial crops, such as cotton, sugar cane and erva mate (herbal tea). Who else? Indigenous communities, who were demanding definitive rights to their land. This land had a high level of biodiversity, perhaps the highest in the country. But with the expansion of the model everything was destroyed. And for the first time there was institutionalised violence against the peasant families. As most of them didn’t have official land rights, the provincial government decided that the land didn’t belong to them but to the state, so the government could sell it to the outsiders. The new investors arrived and contracted private security guard to expel the peasants. The same mechanism was used with the indigenous movement. The soya farmers arrived with security guards, the provincial police and even justice officials (the justice system is a disgrace in Argentina, above all in Salto and Santiago del Estero). They wreaked havoc with the communities, destroying their sacred land and their cemeteries and their schools. Argentinian anthropologists are considering whether or not they should use the word ethnocide to describe what happened, above all to the unorganised communities like the Wuichis and Guaranis, small groups with perhaps 40 families. Once again, there was resistance. Some very strong peasant and indigenous movements have emerged, such as the Movimiento Campesino y Indígena de la Argentina (the Peasant and Indigenous Movement of Argentina) and the Movimiento Campesino de Santiago del Estero – MOCASE (the Peasant Movement of Santiago del Estero).