The Socio-Economic Accord partially reflects the various positions of the interested parties. However, its provisions implicitly indicate that resolution of the agrarian problem is understood as a process of reallocating resources within a marginally reformed institutional context based on private ownership and the market. There are no provisions for structural changes in land tenure or for expropriating unused or under-utilised lands, while the notion of social property is entirely absent. In terms of underlying philosophy therefore, it is CACIF's vision which predominates. In explaining this, most commentators point to the weakness of the insurgent Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG) in talks and the powerful influence of landowners on government negotiators. It is also widely believed that the guerrilla leadership opted to make strategic concessions on the land issue in order to bring the peace process to an end as soon as possible and to facilitate their own future participation in a legal political framework.
The reaction of the Guatemalan business sector and of those closely involved in the negotiations process was generally positive. CACIF president Humberto Preti hailed it as an important step toward ensuring agricultural productivity while 'providing legal certainty' for land owners. The National Farmers' and Ranchers' Council (CONAGRO) saw the agreement as a basis for national development within the framework of economic globalisation. Government negotiator Gustavo Porras Castejón optimistically argued that the implementation of the Land Register and taxes on idle land would lead to the solution of land ownership conflicts, while Rodrigo Asturias (Commander 'Gaspar Ilom' of the URNG), although recognising that the accord did not represent a definitive solution, hailed it as the first significant agreement on land reform for many years. The ASC limited its response to a brief communiqué expressing broad 'satisfaction'.
In marked contrast to these positive interpretations, many popular organisations, in common with the URNG rank-and-file, were less enthusiastic. CNOC, the Committee for Campesino Unity (CUC) and the National Indigenous and Campesino Coordination (CONIC), while conceding the accord provided possibilities for 'resolving ... the problems affecting campesinos', concluded that the accord was 'insufficient as a mechanism for solving land conflicts.' CONIC was the harshest in its criticism, stating that 'these are minimum accords, that do not satisfy Mayan and campesino demands, because our positions were not taken into consideration and because (the accord was signed) behind our back'.
In a personal interview in August 1997, Juan Tiney, leader of CONIC argued that the retention of article 39 of the Guatemalan constitution, which enshrines the principle of private landed property as an inherent human right and gives extensive state guarantees for landowners to use and enjoy their property, consolidates the present unequal system of land ownership. He also questioned the capacity of the Land Fund and Land Tax to provide economic opportunities for campesinos, emphasising the lack of state-owned or fallow lands available for redistribution, and the difficulties inherent in defining what is taxable idle land, especially given landowners' tremendous lobbying power.
With regard to the land register, Tiney criticised the lack of clarity over the definition of property rights. It appears that lands illegally seized from poor campesinos throughout history can now be registered as legal holdings. There is no questioning of how a title came to be held, although many were undoubtedly obtained through bribery, fraud and coercion. Neither is there any mention of what is to be done in cases where the legitimacy of land titles is contested and overlapping claims exist. Some community claims to land stretch back a century, but titles recently granted tend to legitimise the claims of new owners.
Negative reactions also came from sectors of the civic opposition not specifically involved in land issues. For Rigoberto Quemé, indigenous mayor of the city of Quetzaltenango, the accord proposes non-distributive land reform, putting campesinos at the mercy of market forces and the pressures of the credit and banking system, while down-playing the importance of social issues. According to the Co-ordination of organisations of Mayan People of Guatemala (COPMAGUA), the accord breathes fresh life into structures inherited from the colonial period, and fails to challenge the overriding interests of large landowners. Writing for the Latin American Faculty of Social Science (FLACSO), Leopoldo Sandoval Villeda highlighted how the new National Trust Fund for Lands is likely to make a significant impact in only two areas: the recovery of some illegally occupied public lands in the northern department of Petén and in the Northern Transversal Strip (an area which was illegally settled by large landowners and military officers during the 1970s); and the commercial purchase of lands with limited official finances. As such, it represents an unsatisfactory, piecemeal and minimalist approach to land reform.
Losing out in implementation
The institutions set up for implementation of the Socio-Economic Accord have the role of mediating between landowners, the government and campesinos. Remarkably few verification mechanisms were specified, however, and so far, the interests of the powerful landowning sector have prevailed within these institutions. In June 1997, the government announced that it lacked the resources to carry out the Land Registry promised in the accord, and that it intended to contract the service to private firms. CONIC and other organisations opposed this idea, convinced that the Land Registry is primarily a state responsibility and that private firms would favour large landowners.