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Denunciation from the Banda Sur community
Por translation: mark - Monday, Aug. 02, 2004 at 7:13 PM
Monday 2 of August 2004 | The Tabacal sugar plant plans on a new eviction in Orán. Members of the El Algarrobal Indigneous Community, located in the south band of the paraje río Blanco in the Salta region of Orán, denounced the San Martín del Tabaca sugar refinery a few days ago. In the judicial presentation they accused the sugar business, property of the multinational Seabord Corporation, of applying constant pressure to abandon the lands and to allow the bulldozers in. In turn, the delegation of the Guaraní El Tabacal Indigenous Community has returned to the Hipólito Irigoyen region after three months of negotiations in Buenos Aires. They have managed to get the recognition of the executive commission, after the Instituto Nacional de Asuntos Indígenas (National Institute of Indigenous Affairs) for months endorsed the existence of a parallel commission prompted by the Tabacal sugar refinery and made up of people from outside the community. In the meantime in Boston, United States, a hundred activists mobilised at the headquarters of the Seabord Corporation to demand the immediate return of the stolen lands and the end of evictions in all the Orán area.
“Right now members of the community are throwing themselves in front of the bulldozers to stop them destroying our lands. If we don´t act, it will be too late. They have been destroying since Thursday the 22nd of July and you haven´t done a thing”.
The quote comes from the judicial presentation from the El Algarrobal community, dated 26th of July and directed at judge Oscar Blanco. The same justice official that saw over the eviction of the El Tabacal community on the 16th of September last year, asked by the same business that now intends to evict the indigenous people of paraje río Blanco.
The conflict has dragged on since the end of last year, when the Tabacal sugar refinery began to claim the territory the members of the community have lived on for twenty years as its own. Its an area of around 150 hectares where more than 50 families live, cultivating sweet potato, corn, tapioca, peanut and banana.
In the last presentation, Gregoria López, community leader, accused the contractor, Córdoba of entering the lands with employees under its command and of destroying the lands with bulldozers. The accusation states that “the banana plantations and other plantations of Antonio Pintos and of Gabriel Flores on community land are in danger”.
In turn Guillermo Yakúlica, responsible for institutional relations of the Tabacal sugar refinery, is accused by the indigenous people of being the intellectual author of these facts. The same executive faces an accusation of intention of homicide presented by Benjamín Flores on Tuesday the 15th of June in the Penal District attorney's Office nº 2 of Orán, adding to the presentation of Carlos Ibañez, another member of the community.
The interventions of the sugar plant inside the margins of the community are nothing new. On Thursday January 15th this year, under Yakúlica´s directions, employees of the business destroyed the humble home of the Méndez family before setting fire to it and devastating their crops
The Tabacal sugar plantation are also accused of environmental destruction diffused recently through a communiqué of the Partido Obrero (Working Party) of Orán. According to the report, the business “is appropriating all the water in the río Blanco river redirecting it for the irrigation of its cultivations”. The report states that the consequences are particularly visible at the bridge of the national route 50 and that these changes are producing “numerous problems to the neighbours of the city and of the countryside, damage to the ecology and to species themselves in the area fed by the river”.
Back to Irigoyen
On Tuesday July 20th the last members of the El Tabacal Community who were continuing negotiations in Buenos Aires returned to Hipólito Irigoyen. In the end the delegation spent three months in Capital Federal (BA city centre), in which they took part in various mobilizations and were interviewed by officials of the Nation State.
Though they did not receive a convincing answer to their demand for the restitution of the territory known as La Loma, the guaraní won a small battle. They managed to get The Instituto Nacional de Asuntos Indígenas (National Institute of Native Affairs, INAI) to reject an executive commission formed by the Tabacal sugar refinery and made up of people from outside the community.
The parallel commission had been created in an ‘assembly’ carried out in Hipólito Irigoyen on February 26th. It was conducted by Rogelio Guanuco, president of the Asociación Indígena de la República Argentina (Indigenous Association of the Argentine Republic, AIRA), and also involved the participation of political pointmen closely affiliated to the sugar plant and officials of the provincial State.
Thanks to the pressure exercised by the El Tabacal Community and to those supporting it, the president of the INAI, Jorge Rodriguez, finally opted to denounce the commission. The resolution, dated June 29th, says: “I announce that this Institute no longer recognises the meeting carried out on February 26th 2004 as it was carried out with disregard to the approved statute of the Tabacal indigenous community and has been, as a result, composed of people who do not form part of the community”.
During the five months that the INAI approved of the existence of the recently denounced commission, it served as an excuse to not find solutions to the demand for the restitution of the 5000 hectares appropriated by the sugar plant. The argument used was the existence of supposed internal differences in the community and that the state dependence could not take sides.
With respect to the territorial claim, the members of the community are currently evaluating the government offer to enter into dialogue with the business. Previously, there was a promise of expropriation carried out by the minister of social development, Alicia Kirchner, but in April the Cabinet leader, Raquel Tiramonti, communicated that the minister had changed her mind.
From the heart of the Beast
Last Thursday more than a hundred US activists carried out a demonstration outside the central offices of the Seabord Corporation in Boston renouncing the eviction of indigenous communities in the Orán region.
According to declarations from the organisers, the objective of the march was “to connect grassroot movements and to re-structure the politics in the people and the environment” and to public denounce Harry Bresky, “who receives $2 million dollars annually from his position as president of Seaboard Corporation”.
In the released communiqué, they re-emphasised that Bresky is responsible for 75% of the actions of Seabord Corporation and that “he presides over a multinational empire that includes as fiscal property more than 50 businesses, from Argentina to the
Dominican Republic, Honduras, Bulgaria and the USA”.