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Startseite Urgent Actions 2010 11 Indigenous people shot at and houses burned
UA 245/10
Abgeschlossen am 7. Januar 2011

Indigenous people shot at and houses burned

AI-Index: AMR 13/006/2010

On 23 November, police violently dispersed a roadblock by members of the Toba Qom indigenous community of La Primavera, in Northern-East Argentina, leaving two people dead and several injured. Police also burned temporary housing built by the community.

Around 100 members of the Toba Qom indigenous community have been blocking national highway (Ruta Nacional) 86 for 4 months claiming for their land and. in protest against construction of the National University Institute by the Government of Formosa Province on land the community claim as part of their ancestral territory. According to the community, between 400 and 500 heavily armed police officers demanded that they move out of the road, without showing an eviction order (orden de desalojo). The community refused to leave and were forcibly evicted by police.

During the eviction, at least one community member and one police officer were shot dead and at least five community members are in a serious condition in hospital. All temporary houses built by the communities alongside the highway were burned by the police. Around 30 community members were detained, including children. They have all been released except for Eugenio Fernandez, a young community member, who remains in detention. Felix Diaz, the leader of the community, was personally threatened by officers and called an “agitator”.

Earlier on the same day, five members of a non-indigenous (criollo) family who claim property on the same piece of land arrived on horses, carrying arms. They were accompanied by around 18 police officers. When Felix Diaz approached them, they shot at him twice, missing both times. Coming to his aid, other members of the community threw stones at the horses to make them bolt. The family left, firing shots in the air. Terrified community members confronted the police who did nothing to protect them. According to members of the community, police officers told them “you deserve it; you have been looking for trouble” (“se lo tenian merecodp, ustedes se lo buscaron”) .

Additional Information

La Primavera community has been claiming the land alongside the National Highway 84 as par of their ancestral territory for years. The community claim that during the blockade, no state officials tried to start a dialogue or a negotiation with them, nor were their claims heard. Instead, the government is trying to go ahead with their plans to build a University Institute on the land, despite a precautionary measure the community secured against those plans and the fact that the ownership of the land is disputed.

This attitude is part of a pattern Amnesty International has been documenting in Formosa, where the state is failing to comply with its obligation to hold consultations and to seek free, prior and informed consent from indigenous communities before undertaking any development plan that may affect them. Authorities have also failed to solve land disputes and respect indigenous communities’ right to their ancestral territories. In Formosa, the government refuses to engage in constructive dialogue with indigenous communities and instead imposes development and other plans on them without their consent. There have been also serious allegations of harassment and attempts of co-opting community leaders and their legal representatives to dissuade them from continuing with their claims

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