Argentina: Inter-ethnic summit brings together 25 Indigenous nations to strengthen resistance

Source: Intercontinental Cry

From May 27-29, 2014, Indigenous leaders from across Argentina’s 17 provinces met in Buenos Aires and presented dramatic testimonies of human rights violations and dispossession from their ancestral lands. In all corners of the country, these Indigenous Peoples have found themselves at the forefront of the battle against oil and gas exploration, fracking, mining, hydroelectric dams and deforestation for soy cultivation.

As they defend the environment and their ancestral territories, many have suffered death threats, judicial harassment and other forms of persecution. Solidarity was expressed in particular with two emblematic cases – the Mapuche community Winkul Newen and the inter-ethnic organization QOPIWINI.

Winkul Newen is located in Argentina’s oil-rich Neuquen Province. Over the years, the community has faced numerous eviction attempts — in the past, by the U.S. companies Pioneer and Apache, and more recently, by Yacimientos, a subsidiary of the state-run company, YPF. In Dec. 2012, a court officer, accompanied by a hundred police officers and representatives of Apache Corporation, arrived to evict the Mapuche community. Winkul Newen resisted by throwing stones, resulting in the injury of the court officer.  Under Argentina’s new anti-terrorist law, community leader, Relmu Ñamku now stands accused of attempted murder. If found guilty, she could face life imprisonment.

Relmu told IC Magazine, “For decades my community has been exposed to harassment and persecution not to mention the violent environmental impact of the oil drilling activities.  All of us – even elders and small children – have suffered injuries at the hands of police and armed civilians.”

“The contamination of our water sources has a serious impact on our health. No one has ever been brought to justice for these violations and yet now I am facing the prospect of 15 years in prison,” Relmu continued.

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