Argentina for sale? Controversy after Miley Decree ending limit on land purchase for foreigners

(CNN Spanish) — The Order of Necessity and Urgency (DNU) issued by Argentine President Javier Meili on 21 December included the repeal of the so-called Land Law, which had established a limit on purchases and occupation under the logic of national sovereignty. Land by foreigners. This comes as judicial submissions continue against this megadecree, one of which managed to block the chapter referring to labor reforms with an injunction.

Law 26,737 for the protection of the national domain on the property, possession or tenure of rural lands was promulgated in December 2011 at the request of then President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. It established that foreigners could not own more than 15% of the land in a country, a province or a municipality. But, in addition, since Argentina is an agricultural-exporting country, where soybeans have been the main crop and export in recent decades, this prohibited them from owning more than a thousand hectares of the most productive and fertile land in the country Is. The so-called core zones (in the north of Buenos Aires province, and in the south of Santa Fe and Córdoba provinces) or their equivalents in the rest of the provinces.

A key point of the law is in Article 10, which prevents foreigners from “owning or occupying” properties that are “on the banks of large and permanent water bodies” or “located in border security areas”. Now, with its repeal, some natural resources, such as the sources of rivers or lakes, or areas considered sensitive, can be sold to foreign people or capital without any major restrictions.

However, in reality, these situations have occurred even when the law was in effect. The most famous case, although not the only one, is that of British businessman Joe Lewis, owner of the British Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur. It owns more than 11,000 hectares of land in the province of Patagonia, near the cities of Bariloche and El Bolson, according to a report by the University of Rio Negro and the provincial legislature.

The businessman also has a lengthy legal dispute, accusing him of limiting public access to Lake Escondido, which borders his land. Amid the public resonance of the case, then-President Mauricio Macri rejected the allegation and came out in defense of whom he described as his “friend”.

“Access to the lake (Escondido) is better now than it was before Joe Lewis bought that property,” Macri said in January 2017. Comment for which he received many criticisms.

How much land is in the hands of foreigners?

The now-repealed law had also created the National Registry of Rural Lands, which as of its latest update (April 2022) establishes that no province exceeds a limit of 15% of land ownership in the hands of foreigners. According to the report, Salta is closest to that maximum with 11.56%. They are followed by Misiones (11.07%), San Juan (10.48%), Corrientes (9.87%), Mendoza (9.11%), Catamarca (8.64%) and Santa Cruz (8.11%).

Foreignization of land in Argentina (Courtesy

Foreignization of land in Argentina (Courtesy

It also states that Americans are the foreigners who own the most land in the country: more than 2.7 million hectares, followed by Italians with more than 2 million and Spaniards with more than 1.8 million.

However, these data may not be complete, due to the amendment of the law made by decree of Macri in 2016, which among other things eliminated the information rules to be submitted to the National Registry and allowed foreign companies to be considered national. Gave. As per the shareholding structure offered by them.

Distribution of land ownership in Argentina by nationality.  (Courtesy argentina.gob,ar)

Distribution of land ownership in Argentina by nationality. (Courtesy argentina.gob,ar)

for and against

“The best thing that can happen is for things to happen with free markets and complete freedom,” said Nicolás Pino, president of the Argentine Rural Society, in an interview with Radio Miter. “There are farms here that cost 8, 10, 15 thousand dollars a hectare, and the same quality farm in the United States costs double or triple that,” he said.

In contrast, another rural leader, Carlos Achetoni, president of the Argentine Agrarian Federation (FAA), considered that “there was no need” to repeal the land law “because the 15% limit is far from the limit that exists today,” he declared. Of.For Radio Continental.

“To open the purchase of land unrestrictedly to foreigners is to attack the chances of survival for many Argentines who were building their homeland and, along the way, melting after sanctions and tax pressure. In hard times like Argentina today “Opening up unrestricted seems a little dangerous to me,” he said.

For her part, Magdalena Odarda, Peronist representative of Río Negro province, submitted an amparo along with several environmental, indigenous, union and political leaders against Article 154 of the DNU, which repeals this law, questioning its constitutionality and Requests to cancel it. Like other articles or many other submissions against this entire measure set out by Miley, the decision is in the hands of justice.

(TagstoTranslate)Decree(T)Xavier Miley

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