The concerts here in Buenos Aires have proved to be pretty exciting! Some fantastic campaigning by Amnesty Argentina volunteers meant that we have smashed through our target of 100,000 signatures for the Demand Dignity campaign since we started on the European leg of the U2 360° tour last August. I’m delighted and so proud of each and every one of our Amnesty volunteers and staff around the world who have worked so hard, come rain or shine, to achieve this. They have shown such passion and dedication in bringing the campaign to life to reach the hearts and minds of so many people in so many countries. From Europe to New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Latin America, the tour has given Amnesty the opportunity to realise a fantastic sense of international unity in our pursuit to end the human rights violations that drive and deepen global poverty.
Volunteers from Amnesty Argentina have certainly played their part in helping to achieve this, most notably with a phenomenal finale on Sunday where they got 6,017 signatures – the third highest number on the entire tour to date. Latin American passion was running high as our volunteers campaigned for the rights of indigenous people in Argentina, who comprise 1.5% of the population but are typically the poorest in the country, living primarily in isolated rural areas or in urban shantytowns.
We were delighted that indigenous human rights defender Felix Diaz and members of the Toba Qom community were able to join us at the concert on Wednesday, as we were campaigning on their behalf at the shows. Last November 400 police officers violently dispersed members of the community who had mounted a roadblock in protest at plans to build a university on traditional lands. The police did not have an eviction order. They burned down their temporary homes and included in the fires were many National Identification Documents that are needed to get vital assistance from social programmes. Police have also failed to provide protection from armed violence directed at Felix and the community and Felix has been threatened by the police himself.
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. Determined to meet with the National Government, Felix and others camped for 20 days and initiated a 7 day hunger strike. The strike ended when officials from the Ministry of the Interior agreed to meet with him. An agreement was struck, but all aspects of it currently remain unmet. Amnesty Argentina volunteers managed to get 12,248 signatures to support this issue at the 3 concerts here. We were honoured that such brave human rights defenders attended the concert and represented Amnesty on stage.