Argentina Indigenous community takes on eviction threat

The Argentine authorities should not evict Indigenous families from their homes, Amnesty International said today, amid fears that 30 people could lose their homes in a battle over land ownership in the north-west of the country.A judge in San Miguel de Tucumán on 30 May rejected a request by members of the Quilmes Indigenous Community (Comunidad India Quilmes) to overturn an order to remove four families from their homes in the village of Colalao del Valle in Tucumán province. The families – including 10 children – live on a four-hectare piece of land in the village that is also claimed by a local company, Comunidad Aráoz Hermanos. “Our community has had problems forever, for many years now,” said Francisco “Pancho” Solano Chaile, the Quilmes Indigenous Community’s elected leader (cacique). “[The authorities have] evicted us numerous times, but we’ve been organizing ourselves for some time now, taking control of our ancestral land from third parties – interests from outside, who aren’t locals. They have more political support than in the past and we find ourselves hemmed in.” The community’s lawyers filed a formal complaint against the judge on 1 June, accusing him of “failing to comply with the duties he is charged with” and of making an arbitrary ruling in favour of the company.  Community members have been previously forcibly evicted from the land in September 2009 and January 2010, but on both occasions they reoccupied their homes peacefully within days. Clashes broke out when police officers and a local judge attempted another eviction on 29 April 2011, wounding several community members and police officers. Two national laws currently prohibit the forced eviction of Indigenous communities in Argentina until November 2013, when the federal government is expected to finish a nationwide survey to define Indigenous territories. However, several Indigenous communities are at risk of being forcibly evicted in Tucumán province, and community leaders have been attacked or killed for defending land they claim is theirs.“What is the point of having national legislation to protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples if authorities aren’t going to abide by it?” said Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Director for the Americas at Amnesty International. “Indigenous Peoples have suffered enough in Argentina and the region, and it’s time for abuses against them to stop.”