Argentina: Mapuche block oil facility after fires

Some 200 indigenous Mapuche blocked the entrance to a facility of Argentina’s state-controlled Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF) oil company on Aug. 31 in the Vaca Muerta region in the southwestern province of Neuquén to protest the burning of five of their buildings. The residents blamed YPF security guards for the fires, which destroyed four homes and the meeting place for their community, Campo Maripe, on Aug. 30 and in the early morning of Aug. 31. The company denies responsibility, but Mapuche spokespeople noted that there is security at the YPF site, provided by the Neuquén provincial government, and that YPF is building a separating plant just 100 meters from the first of the houses to be set on fire. They asked how it was possible “that a building could be set on fire just hundreds of meters from the oil wells and derricks and no one observed anything.”

Mapuche communities occupied four oil wells in the Vaca Muerta region in July to protest a $1 billion agreement between YPF and the California-based Chevron Corporation to drill for oil in the area’s shale deposits, both because residents fear environmental damage from the drilling method, hydraulic fracturing (“hydrofracking”), and because Chevron has refused to settle a $19 billion judgment in favor of Ecuadorian indigenous people whose territory was damaged by oil exploitation. (Europa Press, Sept. 1; Kaos en la Red, Sept. 2)

In other news, on Sept. 4 Chile extradited Argentine judge Otilio Romano, who is accused of committing almost 100 human rights crimes as a prosecutor under Argentina’s 1976-83 military dictatorship. The judge had fled Argentina to avoid prosecution. Interpol Chile director Fernando Villegas said police agents took Romano to the Santiago airport to be delivered to Argentine Interpol agents and flown to the north-central Argentine city of Mendoza. (New York Times, Sept. 4, from AP)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, September 8.