By Carlos Machado
The Argentine Agrarian Federation confirms that some 300,000 square kilometers - 10% of the national territory - are in the hands of foreign investors, who “have benefited from the flexible attitude of the different national and provincial governments to acquire millions of hectares and non-renewable resources , without restrictions and at reasonable prices ”.
The French newspaper "Le Monde", with the signature of its columnist Christine Legrand and in a note that was reproduced in its edition this Sunday by "La Nación", from Chile, refers to the growth in the sale of Argentine land to millionaires foreigners, which at this time has already reached 10% of the territory. He points out that "Argentina is for sale, and that is the alarm bell launched in Buenos Aires by economists and ecologists, in addition to the Catholic Church", mentioning that the latter published, in September 2006, the document "A land for all" , demanding a federal policy to solve a problem that affects indigenous communities and small farmers expelled from their lands.
He also recalls that in the 1990s, then President Menem declared: "We have excess land," inviting foreign corporations and individuals to invest, and that from then on, more and more foreigners acquire vast tracts.
Thanks to that generosity of Menem, it did not take long for the “invasion” that the Benetton brothers began, who today possess the largest portion of Argentine territory in Patagonia, estimated at 900,000 hectares. They were followed by Ted Turner, the AOL-Time Warner mogul and founder of the CNN network, who bought some 45,000 hectares in the same region to pursue his hobby of "fishing for trout." Millionaire Douglas Tompkins is also included in this personal pleasures, who in addition to several hectares in Patagonia also bought an important part of the Iberá estuaries, in the province of Corrientes. According to Tompkins, his intention is "to protect the environment and natural heritage," while other sectors accuse him of wanting to protect, in reality, the water that, given its scarcity, its country of origin will perhaps need very soon. Let us remember that the picturesque character embodied by the official piquetero and former civil servant Luis D'Elía, in one of his many papers, was publicized several months ago in the media brandishing a huge pliers with which, acting as "the fat vigilante", he cut the access fences to the Tompkins field in the littoral province.
The advances of foreign landowners continued with Joseph Lewis, one of the richest businessmen in the United Kingdom, who usually spends the austral summer in his 14,000 hectares surrounding Lake Escondido; Ward Lay, French fry magnate "Lays" and friend of George Bush, who acquired thousands of hectares because "Patagonia reminds me of the Texas of the '50s," as well as vineyards in Mendoza; Belgian Hubert Grosse, who bought 11,000 hectares in the Río Negro province, where his friends and wealthy tourists go to play golf and polo; and the singer Florent Pagny, in love with the Argentine south and with an Argentine, who spends part of the year in his two stays in the province of Chubut.
Cheap, but the best
After an investigation carried out for three years throughout the country, journalists Andrés Klipphan and Daniel Enz published the book "Tierras SA", where they affirm that "in the provinces of Santiago del Estero and Chaco a hectare costs the same as a hamburger" , and that "there are thirty projects to regulate these sales, in Parliament and in the governments of the provinces, but they are still in the drawer." In this sense, they add that foreign millionaires "have benefited from the flexible attitude of the different national and provincial governments to acquire millions of hectares and non-renewable resources, without restrictions and at reasonable prices."
For its part, the Argentine Agrarian Federation confirms that some 300,000 square kilometers - 10% of the national territory - are in the hands of foreign investors, a figure that may seem minimal in relation to the total area of the country, but which is equivalent to more than half of France. In turn, Gonzalo Sánchez, author of the book “La Patagonia sold”, who interviewed most of the foreigners who bought land in the south, assures that “you can buy whatever you want, anywhere, if you have enough capital even in national parks ”.
Patagonia is one of the most coveted regions. Only 5% of the 37 million Argentines live in that southern part of the country, which in any case represents a third of the national territory and contains its main wealth: hydroelectric energy, 80% of oil and natural gas and one of the largest freshwater reserves on the planet. In contrast, Patagonia is the region least defended, as mentioned, by the national and provincial governments on duty, more inclined to follow the ancestral corruption of handing over national patrimony as long as their pockets can house the corresponding "commissions" accrued of those sales.
Of course, there are other Argentine provinces that are also targeted by foreign buyers. For example, the North American actors Richard Gere, Matt Damon and Robert Duvall have several estates in the northern provinces of Salta, Jujuy and Tucumán, and in Mendoza Spanish, Italian and French wine consortia have been established.
As if to leave something for Argentine investors, we can say that the basketball player Emanuel Ginobili invested more than two million dollars in luxurious tourism projects on the shores of the Río Negro and on the shore of Lake Correntoso, in Patagonia, while the former soccer player Gabriel Batistuta became one of the great landowners in the province of Santa Fe. Meanwhile, there has been a lot of talk about the investments of the driver Marcelo Tinelli -benetton's neighbor in Patagonia-, and a lot was also said -although not do the media that protect it or receive its advertising pattern - from the mistreatment it gives to the Mapuche communities that have inhabited that region for centuries, whose members are expelled or cannot travel along the ancestral roads they have always used and that, for These “land investment” issues go through what is now “private property”.
Issues all of these inherited from the generosity of a pathetic "visionary" who ruled the country for ten years, and affirmed by the indolence of those who succeeded him, who, although apparently opposed to him politically, in fact are firm followers of his work of corruption.
* Carlos Machado