Argentina: housing occupations and evictions continue

Provincial police forcibly removed some 200 families on Aug. 5 from land they had occupied a month earlier in Villa 9 de Julio in the northwestern Argentine province of Tucumán. Acting on a court order from Judge Nora Wrexler, the agents destroyed homes that the 500 squatters had improvised out of canvas, cardboard and sheet metal when they moved in from different neighborhoods in the north of the nearby provincial capital, San Miguel de Tucumán.

In a confrontation that lasted about an hour, police, some of them on horseback, used nightsticks, tear gas and rubber bullets on the residents, who hurled rocks, bottles and clubs at the agents. No serious injuries were reported, but the police said five agents were hurt, and photographs showed protesters with bloodied heads. There were five arrests. According to a witness, the police chased after squatters who resisted; agents even invaded and damaged the homes of neighbors in the area who had given the protesters refuge.

The eviction in Tucumán came just eight days after a similar action in another northwestern province, Jujuy, left three protesters and one police agent dead on July 28. An unidentified official told the Buenos Aires daily Clarín the Tucumán government was relieved that there were no serious injuries, but he rejected any comparison with the situation in Jujuy, where there is a severe housing shortage. “Here the government has built 20,000 houses and created 35,000 housing solutions,” the Tucumán official said. But Gustavo Usandivaras, a housing official in Tucumán, admitted to the local daily El Siglo that the government is dealing with three land occupations in Tucumán and that the squatters “resort to this precisely in the face of the absence of solutions.” (AFP, Aug. 5,1 via, Colombia; Clarín, Aug. 6)

The violent eviction in Jujuy brought strong protests, including a march from the Congress to the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires on Aug. 2. The provincial legislature reacted on Aug. 4 by approving the expropriation of 40 hectares of land from the Ledesma S.A. corporation, which produces sugar and paper, for the construction of homes for some 3,000 people who need housing in the city of Libertador General San Martín, where the eviction took place. The company owns the land the squatters had seized, and critics say its holdings include 157,556 hectares of land, of which it only uses 38,000 hectares.

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, August 7.

See our last post on Argentina.