Latest news from the ‘Our Forest’ Communities (Zlaqatahyi), February 2014
John Palmer reports: After a four-year temporary ban ordered by Argentina’s Supreme Court in 2009, the agribusiness magnates are once again attempting to carve genetically modified fields from the Wichí’s forest. I have attended three public hearings addressing the deforestation as it directly affects Wichí territory. Two of the programmes propose to take 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) from four defenceless communities. If the proposals are approved by the provincial Environment Department, they will amount to a crime against humanity. The immediate effect on the Wichí of this will be to drive them to migrate to the outskirts of nearby towns, where, poor, uprooted and alienated, they are exposed to the worst of non-indigenous culture – especially drugs, which have a particularly serious effect on adolescents. To add to the situation, the oil company that has a well on Hoktek T’oi lands has been defaulting on its monthly payments to the community since September. Their latest excuse has not been recorded. Our Latest Appeal Our appeal this year is for land rights’ funding. We are returning our focus to the protracted Expropriation Case, our longest running action. In 1996, part of the ancestral lands of the community of Hoktek T'oi was sold to a rich landowner – this without the knowledge or permission of the community. Legal action to regain it was begun, and in 2001 an Act of Parliament expropriated the forest on behalf of the community. Since that date, there has been a long struggle to regain full title for Hoktek T'oi. ‘Rights of Use’ were granted in 2007, but this is not restoration of full title. The transfer is being held up because the landowner who bought the forest in 1996 is demanding exorbitant compensation, and is also asking for a return to him of one-third of the 3000 hectares involved. Meanwhile, part of the forest was felled before 2007, and the area is now being plundered by illegal loggers. The need to settle this case is urgent. Please help! You can find details about how to donate at http://chacolinks.org.uk/help.htm.