Greenpeace alleges political collusion behind illegal deforestation for soy cultivation in northern Argentina

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Greenpeace has accused Alejandro Jaime Braun Peña, a politically-connected businessman, of illegally clearing a native forest in the province of Salta for soy cultivation.

Braun Peña’s Cuchuy farm has deforested more than 400 hectares since early December. In total, over 5,000 hectares have been cleared since 2014.

Salta’s provincial government had previously placed the forest in question under categories of its Native Forests Territorial Registry that ban deforestation. The forest is also protected by Argentina’s National Forest Law.

However, Salta’s governor, Juan Manuel Urtubey, is reported to have reclassified 8,962 ha of the area to allow deforestation. According to Greenpeace, the governor’s decision, which is illegal under the National Forest Law, followed a request made by Braun Peña.

Despite this reclassification of the area by the provincial government, it continues to be protected by other articles of the National Forest Law, as well as the Indigenous Territories Emergency Law.

The Cuchuy farm is located in the San Martín department, 70 kilometres from the city of Tartagal. The area is home to the Wichi indigenous people. Greenpeace has warned that four Wichi communities – Cuchuy, San José, Corralito and Chaguaral – could be illegally displaced and have their livelihoods and sacred places affected by the farm’s activities. Since 2012, the Wichi have denounced being placed under pressure by farmers to agree to deforestation in the area.

Hernán Giardini, of Greenpeace Argentina, said: “These forests, in addition to their enormous biodiversity, are the home, warehouse and pharmacy of indigenous communities. It is a crime to destroy them”. He added: “when it comes to forests there is a kind of illegal collusion between the provincial government and businessmen […] who are relatives of officials at the national government”.

Braun Peña has said that his farm’s activities have been authorised by Salta’s government and comply with municipal, provincial and national laws. The provincial government has also stated that land-use changes at Cuchuy are in compliance with national environmental legislation. In response, Greenpeace has reiterated that deforestation at Cuchuy is illegal under Article 14 of the National Forest Law.

According to the organisation, Braun Peña is a cousin of the federal government’s chief of staff and a director in several businesses belonging to the family of Argentina’s president.

Salta’s governor has been accused of illegally authorising the deforestation of 144,984 hectares of protected forests in the province.

Image on homepage shows Greenpeace activists stopping bulldozers in Salta. Image courtesy of Greenpeace Argentina.