Argentina: 40 arrested in nuclear plant occupation

A group of 40 Argentine environmentalists invaded the Embalse Nuclear Center in the central province of CĂłrdoba on March 11 to mark the second anniversary of the earthquake that caused meltdowns at three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan’s Fukushima prefecture, the second-worst nuclear accident in history. The protesters, members of Greenpeace Argentina, “entered [the complex] peacefully, waving flags and wearing orange overalls,” according to Greenpeace Energy Campaign coordinator Mauro Fernández. They proceeded to climb to the top of the reactor, where they unfurled a giant banner reading: “Enough with nuclear danger!” The activists were then “beaten and arrested,” Greenpeace said, and taken to RĂ­o Cuarto federal court, with jurisdiction over the facility.

“This action by Greenpeace demonstrates, two years after the Fukushima catastrophe, that the Embalse Nuclear Center’s security, like that at all nuclear reactors, is vulnerable to any unforeseen contingency,” Fernández said. “It is a matter of urgency to close this plant, which is located over a fault and has passed its useful life, and to begin the abandonment of atomic energy in the country.” Asked how the protesters entered the complex, Fernández answered: “Through the gate, which was open.” The federal government’s 2006 Nuclear Plan includes extending the life of the plant, one of Argentina’s two nuclear facilities, at a projected cost of US$1.366 billion. (La Voz, CĂłrdoba, March 11; Adital, Brazil, March 11; Cadena 3, CĂłrdoba, March 12)

In other news, the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition the night of March 12-13 to break up an encampment that performers and students had maintained for 70 days at the capital’s Gen. San MartĂ­n Cultural Center. Three people were hit in the leg with lead bullets and were treated at local hospitals; four protesters were arrested. The National Alternative Media Network (RNMA) said that two of the people wounded were members of the group—a reporter and a photographer. Police spokespeople said seven agents were injured, apparently by rocks and Molotov cocktails, and claimed that the police hadn’t been armed with lead bullets.

Protesters set up the encampment in response to the closing of the San MartĂ­n center on Jan. 2 in what they said was part of an effort by rightwing Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri to privatize the institution, which is maintained by the city government; the center provides space for theaters and workshops and is a meeting place for the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo and other groups. One section—the Alberdi Hall, which offers drama programs for children and youths—has been occupied by students and teachers since August 2010 to keep the city from shutting it down. After the police attack of March 12-13, opposition politicians denounced Macri’s repressive policies, while students and artists continued to occupy the Alberdi Hall and called for more demonstrations. Activists held a citywide action on Mar. 15 to protest the police raid; they said people participated at 18 different points in the capital. (TĂ©lam, Argentina, March 13; TĂ©lam, March 16, via El Comercial, Formosa, Argentina; Página 12, Argentina, March 16)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 17.