Argentina: anti-Monsanto protesters attacked

On the morning of Nov. 28 some 60 men and women attacked an encampment of protesters who for the past two months had been blocking construction of a seed-drying plant in Malvinas Argentinas, a town in the central Argentine province of Córdoba, by the Missouri-based biotech giant Monsanto Company. The attackers, arriving in two rented buses, used rocks and clubs to drive away protesters at two points where they were blocking access to the construction site. Once the road was cleared, seven trucks delivered construction materials. Later, a confrontation broke out between the attackers and the protesters, who included Malvinas Argentinas residents and environmentalists from other parts of Argentina. Police agents finally intervened by firing rubbers bullets. As many as 20 protesters were injured in the incident, along with three police agents; it was unclear how many attackers were hurt.

According to members of the Malvinas Struggles for Life Neighbors’ Assembly, which organized the blockade, the attack was arranged for Monsanto by the Construction Workers Union of the Argentine Republic (UOCRA), a major union which reportedly sponsored a similar attack on anti-mining activists in the southern province of Chubut in November 2012. Monsanto and UOCRA spokespeople insisted the attackers were simply workers from the site and their families, but one of the injured was an UOCRA official, Luis Gutiérrez. The injured protesters also included a union official: Carlos Valduvino, secretary general of the Union Circle of the Córdoba Press and Communication (Cispren), was hit by a rock in the right eyebrow and required treatment at a clinic.

The Nov. 28 attack came after several incidents involving Monsanto supporters. Two weeks earlier an unidentified man had pulled a pistol on environmentalist Sofia Gatica, a winner of the 2012 Goldman environmental prize, while she was riding a bus; he told her that her brains would be splattered on Monsanto’s doors. On Nov. 22 two people beat and kicked Gatica as she was leaving work. The next day, a group leafleted against the protesters as they were holding a fair on a public plaza. The group’s leaflet claimed that “the people in the encampment aren’t from Malvinas,” that they “don’t want progress,” and that the blockade is financed “by other companies that don’t like Monsanto.” When a youth from the encampment lashed out at the leafleters, they beat him.

The protesters said they would maintain the blockade despite the attacks. They held a march in the nearby city of Córdoba, the provincial capital, the evening of Nov. 28, and are planning another march on Dec. 3, with the support of leftist parties. The French singer of Spanish descent Manu Chao, who was touring Argentina, visited the encampment on the morning of Dec. 1 as a demonstration of solidarity. (ANRed, Argentina, Nov. 28; La Voz del Interior, Argentina, Nov. 28, Nov. 29Análisis Digital, Argentina, Dec. 1)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, December 1.