Indigenous communities face violence from agribusiness in Argentina

Monday, December 12th, 2016

Members of the Yaki Cachi Bajo Hondo indigenous community have suffered harassment, threats and violent attacks by armed groups connected to agribusiness interests in northern Argentina, according to Greenpeace.

In October 2014, the forest agency in Santiago del Estero province authorised the company Gran Hondonada S.A. to clear 3,692 ha of forest for soy production and cattle ranching. The permit allowed the company to log territory claimed by the Yaki Cachi Bajo Hondo. A month later, the same agency withdrew the permit following complaints by the Santiago del Estero Peasant Movement (MOCASE-VC).

Despite the measure, Greenpeace, MOCASE-VC and the Yaki Cachi Bajo Hondo have repeatedly denounced acts of armed attacks against members of the community, arson and deliberate attempts to contaminate the community’s only water well by dumping chemicals into it. In several episodes of violence, women and children had guns pointed at them and a member of the community was shot in the leg.

According to MOCASE-VC, in December 2015 community members stood in front of bulldozers to stop the destruction of their native forests. MOCASE-VC and the community have also alerted the authorities for the illegal deforestation of 500 ha carried out by the company after the permit was suspended.

A Greenpeace Argentina report alleges that in May 2016, with a court order issued by the judge María Martínez Llanos, police tried to forcibly evict families in the area.

Greenpeace Argentina has named Orlando Canido – owner of Manaos, a fizzy drinks producer – as the businessman behind the project and the illegalities committed. Canido has denied any responsibility for the acts of armed violence committed against the community.

However, in late November 2016, a court in Santiago del Estero ordered Canido to stay at least 500 metres away from the community due to ongoing allegations of his role in attempts to forcibly evict families.

Greenpeace has called on Argentine authorities to take action to stop illegal logging in the area and acts of aggression against the community. The organisation is conducting an ongoing campaign in support of the community and calling on Argentina’s Congress to approve new legislation to strengthen criminal sanctions for illegal deforestation.

Picture on homepage ©Greenpeace Argentina