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State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Argentina

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 11 March 2008
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Argentina, 11 March 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48a7eada32.html [accessed 1 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The UN General Assembly IP Declaration ultimately may be largely symbolic since in Argentina, for instance, indigenous claimed land continued to be sold on a massive scale to multinational companies in 2007, particularly for petroleum, open-cast mining and genetically modified soy industries. The result is that Argentina's indigenous peoples continue to be evicted from ancestral lands to make way for these enterprises.

Furthermore, the victory of Argentina's former first lady, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, in the country's 26 October 2007 presidential election, points to a continuation of existing national policies.

Argentina is now the third largest soybean producer in the world after the United States and Brazil. It is the world's second largest producer of genetically modified soy and plans to increase production.

Argentina's indigenous communities mainly live in the forested north-eastern province of Chaco. A large percentage of Chaco's public land and jungles have already been cleared to grow genetically modified soy. Out of some 3.9 million hectares of Chaco public land, which should have been granted to indigenous groups, only 660,000 hectares remain. The rest has been distributed to individual entrepreneurs and companies. Seven per cent of all private land title owners in Chaco now lay claim to 70 per cent of land. Companies in 2007 deployed private security guards who are prepared to shoot at supposed intruders entering the former primary forestlands.

As genetically modified cultivation for biofuel spreads, indigenous and other small-scale peasant farmers are being forced from their land by aerial chemical spraying, topsoil erosion and pollution. The application of massive amounts of pesticides and fertilizers needed to grow genetically modified soybeans on otherwise low-fertility forest soil makes it impossible for communities to remain for health reasons.

In March 2007, seven small-scale farmers were arrested for resisting eviction from lands slated to be cleared for soy production in the northern province of Santiago del Estero, whose provincial government co-sponsored the Buenos Aires Biofuels Congress.

Patagonia land sales

As in the north-east, the continuing sale of land in the southern Argentine region of Patagonia is also affecting indigenous populations.

Indigenous Mapuche who took part in the 2002 land dispute against the Italian textile group Benetton, returned in February 2007 to occupy land belonging to the firm. They declared the need to reclaim their ancestral rights. Since 14 February 2007 over 30 Mapuche have occupied the Santa Rosa farm in the southern province of Chubut in Patagonia.

According to the Argentinean Constitution, indigenous Mapuche are the legitimate owners of the lands in Patagonia. Nevertheless, large parcels of Patagonia continue to be acquired by wealthy foreign buyers for personal use or tourism development. Well-heeled foreigners attracted by the scenic beauty of the barren windswept region have continued to purchase large land holdings ranging from 80,000 to 200,000 acres.

As reported by Gonzalo Sánchez, author of the recently published 2007 bestseller La Patagonia Vendida (Patagonia: Sold), Argentine officials are doing brisk business selling publicly owned land in Patagonia.

The UN-backed Tierramérica Network reported in 2007 that land titling continues to be at the root of the problem. The majority of the indigenous Mapuche living in Patagonia do not hold legal title to lands inhabited by their pre-colonial ancestors, and this is now regarded as 'publicly owned property'. As a result, indigenous land is frequently sold off to the highest bidder thus creating the underlying conditions for all the land ownership disputes in that region.

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