Bolivia seizes more ranch land from gov't opponent

AP - Bolivia has confiscated 280,000 more acres (115,000 hectares) of allegedly fallow or ill-gotten land as part of President Evo Morales' drive to redistribute land to the poor, the government announced Thursday.

The seizure includes 51,000 acres (21,000 hectares) from the ranching company of prominent opposition figure Osvaldo Monasterio, land reform agency chief Juan Carlos Rojas told reporters. Four other haciendas were targeted.

Rojas said the government determined the holdings in eastern Bolivia are underused or have fraudulent deeds -- reasons cited in the past for denying compensation to owners of seized land.
Monasterio is the owner of the Unitel television network, which is aligned with Morales' conservative opposition.

He did not immediately say whether he will appeal, and a person who answered the phone at Unitel on Thursday evening said no immediate comment was planned.

The government previously confiscated two other haciendas from Monasterio totaling about 40,000 acres (16,000 hectares).

In 2009, the government confiscated five haciendas covering 90,000 acres (36,000 hectares) in Bolivia's Chaco region, including ranch lands belonging to American cattleman Ronald Larsen. The government said ethnic Guarani workers there were found to be indentured servants, treated as virtual slaves.

Larsen vehemently denied mistreating the workers and their families, but a court recently upheld the seizure without compensation.

Morales is pushing an agrarian reform project that aims to redistribute land from wealthy owners to the poor indigenous majority.

Landowners targeted by the government allege the seizures are politically motivated.

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