Argentina: Chaco indigenous mobilize

Some 2,000 Wichi, Toba and Mocovi indigenous people from throughout the northern Argentine province of Chaco arrived on June 6 in the provincial capital, Resistencia, and began camping out in front of the provincial government building after an effort to dialogue with governor Roy Nikisch broke down. On June 8 the indigenous protesters blockaded streets in the center of the city. The indigenous communities want to send 100 delegates to meet with Nikisch over demands including the return of thousands of hectares of land illegally appropriated to others; the removal from office of Lorenzo Heffner, mayor of Villa Rio Bermejito; and increased funding for the Chaqueno Chaco Indigenous Institute (IDACh). Nikisch says he will only meet with IDACh’s directors, who are elected by the indigenous communities. The IDACh directors refuse to meet with Nikisch unless the community delegates can participate.

The protest began in May in Villa Rio Bermejito, where residents say Heffner has failed to distribute federal aid received for those affected by the flooding of the plain between the Teuco and Bermejito rivers. The communities also want the government to relocate non-indigenous colonists who are living on the plain, and to license bilingual indigenous teachers. On May 13, at an assembly in Las Palmas, 250 delegates from Rio Bermejito and other indigenous communities in Chaco decided to launch the mobilization. Two days later they began blocking roads. On May 29, they began marching to Resistencia, while another delegation traveled to Buenos Aires to meet with national organizations and government officials. (Adital, Brazil, June 14; Telam, June 14; El Diario Digital, Posadas, Misiones province, June 9 from Vox Populi; EFE, June 8)

On June 14, members of unions and social organizations joined the indigenous communities in a massive march and rally in Resistencia in support of their demands. The march was coordinated by the organization Barrios de Pie (Neighborhoods Standing Up). (Resumen Latinoamericano, June 17 from Pulsar; Telam, June 14

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 18

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