Gran Chaco

Argentina: protests follow death of popular leader

Thousands of protesters marched on government offices in Resistencia, capital of Argentina's Chaco province, after popular leader Angel Verón died Oct. 19 from wounds sustained in a beating by police three weeks earlier. Verón, a leader of "No al Desalojo" (No Evictions) campaign for housing rights as part of the Unemployed Workers Movement (MTD), was at a roadblock on the major route into Resistencia when he was attacked by police on Sept. 24. The roadblock was launched to press Gov. Jorge Capitanich on his pledge to provide construction materials for his group to build housing for the poor. Protesters are demanding the resignation of provincial police chief Gustavo Peña, and a thorough investigation of the incident leading to Verón's death. Protesters held a vigil outside the provincial government building to demand a meeting with Capitanich, but were rebuffed. Capitanich stepped down earlier this year as President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's cabinet chief. (Chaco por Día, Oct. 21; Diario Norte, Oct. 20; Clarín, Oct. 19)

Argentina: clash with police in Chaco water protest

More than 10 were injured as police moved to break up a road blockade by indigenous protesters in Argentina's Gran Chaco region Feb. 19. Qom indigenous peasants launched the roadblock at Pampa del Indio, Chaco province, to protest the failure of municipal authorities to provide potable water to their communities. They also charged that tank trucks that were promised as an interim measure stopped deliveries because they weren't being paid. Chaco Gov. Juan Carlos Bacileff Ivanoff said the protesters had been "tricked by pseudo-leaders," and charged that two police agents are among the wounded, hit by gunfire. Luis Saravia, local leader of the Movimiento Comandante Andresito, responded that "the indigenous brothers did not have arms." A joint statement by the National Campesino Federation, the Movement of Original Peoples and Nations in Struggle, and the Class Combat Current said the protesters were "savagely repressed" by police.  (Argentina Indymedia, Diario Chaco, Diario Chaco, Data Chaco, Feb. 20; La Haine, Feb. 19)

Paraguay pressed on indigenous land restitution

Directors of the Americas sections of Amnesty International on Oct. 30 sent an open letter to Paraguay's senators demanding immediate restitution of usurped lands to the Enxet indigenous community of Sawhoyamaxa in the Gran Chaco region, charging that a 2006 ruling of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH) in favor of the community is going unenforced. In August, the government issued a decree calling for purchase of 14,000 hectares of usurped Sawhoyamaxa lands from a local rancher and their return to the community, but the rancher has refused to negotiate. Enxet communities began legal action for return of their lands in 1991, after which they were evicted from the usurped lands, where many had been employed as ranch hands. The Sawhoyamaxa community was forced to relocate to unused lands on the side of a highway, where they have since been living in poverty, with no access to basic services. The CIDH decision alo called for the restitution of Enxet communities Yakye Axa and Xámok Kásek—cases which likewise remain outstanding. (ABC Color, Nov. 8; Ultima Hora, Oct. 30; AI, Sept. 29, 2011)

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