Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Although Argentina is often proud of its history of peronism, socialism, and attention to the working class, many unprivileged communities remain exploited and left in the dark. Among these, the indigenous people of four indigenous societies who appear to be entirely neglected by Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s government. The tribes Qom, Wichi, Pilaga and Nivache, from the Northern province of Formosa, have been pacifically protesting since the 14th of February 2015 by camping in downtown Buenos Aires, at the intersection of this city’s largest avenue, 9 de Julio and the street leading to Casa Rosada, Avenida de Mayo.
This regroupment, which has named itself QoPiWiNi, is demonstrating for the respect of the Bill of Rights of Indigenous Populations, established by the United Nations and approved by the Argentine congress in 2007. The rights described in this bill include: sufficient access to water and land, access to ancestral lands, use of natural resources traditionally exploited, and the right of participation and information in matters affecting the indigenous. That said, the government of Formosa, directed by Gildo Insfran, is working with the national government on the development of Argentina’s seventh nuclear power plant, which would be constructed and operational on indigenous land.
The indigenous camped in Buenos Aires are pointing out the fact that this nuclear plant project would not only violate the Bill of Rights previously stated but could also represent an immense danger of water contamination, affecting more than 2.75 million inhabitants of the provinces of Formosa, Chaco and Corrientes. “It is a crime yet the state is responsible as it does not accomplish what Congress approve”, declared Rubén Diaz in referral to the violation of the Bill of Rights of Indigenous People. This Dioxitek S.A. UO2 plant project in Formosa is more of an example of rights violation than the main cause of the manifestation. In fact, QoPiWiNi is demanding more than the cancellation of the project: the people of the Nivache tribe, the nivachés, do not possess any residency documentation, making it easier for the government to claim their lands without notice. Furthermore, education is hardly accessible in the poor province of Formosa, thus the lack of political representation of these tribes. Remain therefore very few means of protest for these people, who can only manifest pacifically by camping near the government’s offices in huge tents filled with dirty mattresses, dusty cans of food and ripped blankets.
The capital’s government, headed by Mauricio Macri, has not helped much in QoPiWiNi’s outcry by cutting the encampment’s access to the city’s public water distribution. The thirty-five indigenous people remaining at the intersection live off donation made by the inhabitants of Buenos Aires, posting requests on their website from time to time. More than sixteen weeks have passed and the government has still not responded to QoPiWiNi’s vital demands; the protest remains and is hoping for results promptly as winter is approaching in Argentina; as said by Ruben Diaz, “Water is life”.