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Tabacal sugar plant militarises and approaches indigenous land
Por translation: mark - Saturday, Sep. 11, 2004 at 9:23 PM

Wednesday 8th of September 2004 New report from the Oran communities Members of the indigenous Guaraní Community El Tabacal have reported that the sugar company there, property of the US multinational Seabord Corporation, has destroyed all access to the La Loma area. Meanwhile in the Tupí Guaraní community El Algarrobal, located in the banda sur of Río Blanco, a private security firm hired by the sugar-plant are being used: the Search firm, also based in the USA. The same group that on August 5th attacked numerous members of the community and caused one to be hospitalised for a week. The latest events in La Loma happened hours after a delegation from la Comisión de Población de la Cámara de Diputados de La Nación visited the region and verified accusations of constant violations of indigenous rights. In turn, the Secretary of Government for Salta Province, Raúl Romeo Medina, declared the week before in the National Congress that ”never before has a province worked so hard for the lands of our indigenous brothers”.

The El Tabacal community from Hipólito Irigoyen revealed yesterday in a press release that employees of the Tabacal sugar plant have knocked down the precarious bridges that give access to the 5000 hectares claimed by the community, known as La Loma, and that they have created earth walls with JCBs. They also reported an increase in threats and persecutions toward members of the community, that began in September 2003, when the community tried to recover the lands they were displaced from decades ago. The lawyer of the community, Hernán Mascietti, reported on August 31st that the troops of private security from the company “are now heading to La Loma” and that they “are bringing dogs to sniff out the Indians”.

“We’re going back 20 years” affirmed the legal advisor of the communities of Orán, as the first images of the guards of the armed Ingenuity with sticks, machetes and clubs with sharp points were made public. The photographs were registered August 5th in the banda sur of the Río Blanco area, 4 kilometers from the city of Orán, when Search attacked members from the Community The Algarrobal, who maintain a dispute with the sugar company about the 200 hectares that were taken 30 years ago.

Official excuses

The Comisión de Población de la Cámara de Diputados de La Nación gave the deadline of August 24th for officials of the provincial government to respond to the communities’ accusations. The communities included El Tabacal, Río Blanco Banda Sur and Río Blanco Banda Norte, also known as the Kolla Guaraní community. This last, with an area of 300 hectares, maintains a conflict with another company called Río Zenta SRL, although according to rumours registered in Orán during the month of March, it could be a subsidiary of the Tabacal sugar plant.

The Secretary of Government for Salta, Raúl Romeo Medina, responded to the representatives saying that “in the province we do not have any situation of such gravity in terms of physical integrity or of the possibility of violence”. In this country ”never before has a province worked so hard for the lands of our indigenous brothers” he assured them. In turn, the administrator of the Provincial Institute of indigenous peoples of Salta (IPPIS), Luis Gómez Almaraz, emphasized that the government of Juan Carlos Romero is offering financial and legal aid to the communities.

But when consulted by an Indymedia correspondent, the lawyer Hernán Mascietti clarified what the aid is really about: “When the eviction of Río Blanco Banda Norte (Kolla Guaraní) took place, they were left in the motorway. They asked for support from IPPIS and Gomez Almaraz came and paid 35 postage stamps of 18 pesos each for the nullities that I presented. The secretary of the Community Río Blanca Banda Sur (El Algarrobal) received 100 pesos for the interdict made three weeks before”.

Medina justified the lack of response to the El Tabacal community with an argument recently ruled out by the national government: that the community is divided. “At this time it has two leaderships. That is to say, two presidents and two secretaries because there is a division inside the community, which is maybe habitual”, explained the official. The Secretary of Government referred thus to the executive commission headed by Mariel Chávez, a political leader with excellent relations with the Ingenuity Tabacal. This ‘leadership’ was consecrated in a meeting carried out on February 26th in Hipólito Irigoyen with the participation of the administrators of the IPPIS Raúl Gómez Almaraz and Oscar Valdivieso, as evidenced on film. After repeated accusations from the El Tabacal community, on June 29th the director of the INAI, Jorge Rodriguez, dictated a resolution which rejected the legitimacy of the official commission that the provincial official was speaking about: “This Institute denounces the meeting carried out on the 26th of February 2004 as it was carried out disregarding the statute approved by the Tabacal indigenous community and because it involved, as a result, the designation of people who are not part of the community”. During the time in which the commission of Mariel Chávez was recognized by the INAI, their members changed provincial laws and carried out, in name of the community, various agreements with the executives of the sugar plant and the authorities of Romero’s government.

Voices of repudiation

The constant accusations against the Tabacal sugar plant and the government of Salta for violations of indigenous rights have managed to attract the attention of the mass media, and various national and international agencies. In a letter marked August 10th to the Secretary of Human Rights of The Nation, Luis Duhalde, the NGO Foodfirst Information & Action Network (FIAN), with its headquarters in Germany and consultative status in the United Nations, declared: “The lack of recognition of land rights of the indigenous Guaraní community of Río Blanco Banda Sur openly contradicts the commitments made by Argentina under International and Regional Law. FIAN International considers that the integral insecurity of lands possession of the indigenous communities limits the full execution of the Human Rights to Food, recognized in article 11 of the International Pact of Cultural, Social, and Economic Rights, and violates Covenant 169 of the International Organization of Work that establishes that member States, among them Argentina, agree to guarantee the effective protection of propriety and possession of lands of indigenous communities”.

Also aligned were Equipo Nacional de Pastoral Aborigen (ENDEPA), el Servicio de Paz y Justicia (SERPAJ), directed by Nobel peace prize winner, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, el Movimiento Campesino de Santiago del Estero (MOCASE) y la Organización de Comunidades Aborigenes de Santa Fe (OCASTAFE), among others. For its part, National MP José Roselli, of the Bloque Convergencia, presented a project of repudiation in the National Congress on August 11th.

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