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By Darío Aranda
Between 2004 and 2012 bulldozers razed 2,501,912 hectares, the equivalent of 124 times the surface of the City of Buenos Aires. Another way of saying the same: in Argentina 36 soccer fields are bulldozed every hour. The data arises from the crossing of official surveys and NGOs. The latest report from the National Environment Secretariat surveyed the 2006/2011 period and recorded that 1,779,360 hectares of native forest were razed. The cause, as obvious as it is unpunished, is the advance of the agricultural frontier, with transgenic crops (soybeans and corn) and intensive livestock. The clearing is not only an environmental impact, it also implies conflicts over land, repressions and murders of peasants and indigenous people.
Route 34 connects the capital of Santiago del Estero with Salta. It impacts the homogeneous landscape. Intensive farming, soybeans alternated with corn, more soybeans, and more corn and more soybeans. Only altered by the transition between bush and crop: rows of stacked logs, still smoking, razed to make way for more soybeans. Not even grass remains. The monotonous landscape does not distinguish borders. The south and northeast of Salta is identical. It is repeated in Chaco and Córdoba. All provinces that knew of the "agricultural border shift".
Deforestation statistics are an explanation of this advance.
In the midst of the conflict over resolution 125, March 2008, the National Environment Secretariat released the report "The advance of the agricultural frontier and its consequences." It details that between 2002 and 2006 1,356,868 hectares were razed. An annual average of 339,217, per month 939 hectares. Every hour, 39 soccer fields were deforested in Argentina.
“One of the main causes of the loss of native forests is undoubtedly the advance of the agricultural frontier. Thousands of hectares have been cleared for the cultivation of different agricultural species, in particular soybeans, in the last ten years ", stated the Secretary of the Environment and pointed out the effects: increased erosion and desertification, loss of water regulation surface and subsoil, decrease in water quality, loss of biological diversity, population migration to urban centers, loss of cultural values.
The deforestation ranking was led by Santiago del Estero (515,228) and Salta (414,934). Far, third, Chaco: 127,491 hectares.
In June 2012, another official document confirmed that forest loss continued. “Monitoring of native forest surface” is the name of the report made by the Management Unit of the Forest Assessment System (Umsef) of the National Forest Directorate. The 2006-2011 period surveyed the regions of Parque Chaqueño, Selva Misionera and Selva Tucumano Boliviana.
He detailed the loss of 1,779,360 hectares. An average of 34 hectares per hour. Santiago del Estero 701,030 hectares. Jump, 440.943. Chaco 168,588. Formosa 174,340.
Of that 1.7 million hectares, 932,109 were razed after the Law of Forests (26,331) was approved, which -exactly- prohibits clearing.
“In the provinces the processes of loss of native forest area were mainly caused by the advance of the agricultural frontier. Satellite images reveal the existence of new crops, which on several occasions correspond to soybeans ", the official report acknowledges and warns:" The sustainability of high international prices, in recent years, made possible the durability and even intensification in the production of mass consumer products at the international level, such as soybeans, advancing territorially on new lands previously unthinkable for agricultural practices due to the presence of low agroclimatic productivity rates. In this way, soybean activity expanded from the north of Buenos Aires, Córdoba and Santa Fe, especially to provinces such as Santiago del Estero, Chaco, Tucumán and Salta, despite climatic limitations ”.
Made the law
National Law 26,331 on Minimum Budgets for the Environmental Protection of Native Forests (better known as the Forest Law) was enacted on November 28, 2007. But the President took fourteen months to regulate it.
In February 2009 an avalanche flooded and destroyed part of the city of Tartagal (Salta). Social and academic organizations pointed to selective logging (for the sale of wood and for oil activity). The President visited the area. On February 13, back in Buenos Aires, he regulated the forest law.
Five years after the sanction of the regulation, last February, Greenpeace, Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN) and Vida Silvestre presented a joint report in which - based on official data - they evaluated the level of compliance with the Forests “Although since the enactment of the Law, the average annual deforestation decreased by almost 20 percent (it went from approximately 280,000 to 230,000 hectares per year), it is still very high: according to official data between 2008 and 2011, 932,109 hectares were cleared . Santiago del Estero (399,660), Salta (222,868), Formosa (113,109) and Chaco (102,592) have been the provinces with the highest deforestation ”, affirm the NGOs.
The report, called “ Forest Law: five years with little progress”, Estimates that from the enactment of the law until the end of 2012 1,145,044 hectares were deforested. 229,009 hectares per year, 627 hectares per day. 26 hectares per hour.
If the clearings for the period 2004-2008 (1,356,868) are added, in the last nine years 2,501,912 were razed, the equivalent of 124 times the surface of the City of Buenos Aires.
Argentina has 30 million hectares of native forest, 30 percent of the original forest area. "Our country is in a true forest emergency, strongly accentuated in the last 15 years by the uncontrolled expansion of agricultural activity," say the NGOs and warn that the moratorium on new clearance permits established in articles 7 and 7 was not respected. 8 of the Law (from its enactment at the end of 2007 until the provinces carried out the Territorial Organization of their Native Forests). "During that period in the Chaco region, the missionary jungle and the Yungas jungle, more than 470,000 hectares were deforested," he says.
The Forest Law establishes that the National Fund for the Enrichment and Conservation of Native Forests (article 31) may not be less than 0.3 percent of the National Budget. To this should be added two percent of the total withholdings on exports of primary and secondary products from agriculture, livestock and the forestry sector, corresponding to the previous year. The financing aims to improve the technical and control capacity of the provinces, compensate the licensees who carry out conservation and sustainable management tasks, and promote the productive activities that small rural producers and indigenous communities carry out in the forests.
Greenpeace, FARN and Vida Silvestre detailed that in 2008 and 2009 the regulation did not have a budget. In 2010, the allocated funds were 300 million pesos, when they should have been at least 821 million pesos (0.3 percent of the National Budget). "If you add the withholdings on exports, they should have reached 1,200 million pesos," he recalls. And it denounces that on February 11, 2010, 144 million pesos were reassigned to the "Soccer for All Program" through the decision of the Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers. “In 2012 the funds were 267 million. At least 1,300 million pesos should have been foreseen ", warn environmental NGOs and questioned" the constant lack of budget for the conservation and sustainable use of native forests. " They explained that in 2013 the funds will be ten times less than what is established by Law: 230 million pesos, when they should have reached 2.3 billion.
The Chaco Argentina Agroforestry Network (Redaf - space for NGOs and technicians from the north of Argentina) with the technical cooperation of the Faculty of Agronomy of the University of Buenos Aires and the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) revealed that between 2008 and September 2012 330,504 hectares were cleared in Salta.
The Redaf survey, of 40 pages, called “Native Forest in Salta. Analysis of deforestation and the situation of the Chaco forest in the province ”, he points out that of the 330 thousand hectares deforested, 98,894 were in areas prohibited by land use planning and 53,202 were in violation of the restriction issued by the Supreme Court of Justice (between 2009 and 2011).
The work specifies that, between 2001 and 2012, 920,640 hectares were cleared. “The rate of clearings grew with the end of convertibility (2001). The growing interest in enabling new lands for export crops and livestock, pushed clearing especially towards the Chaco Salteño ”, confirms Redaf.
Deforestation and violence against peasants and indigenous people go hand in hand.
The report by Greenpeace, FARN and Vida Silvestre remarks that in Santiago del Estero, land conflicts increased and “they have become increasingly violent”. He denounced that public hearings (required by law) are not held before authorizing clearings. And remember that the authorization of clearing in areas "inhabited and / or used" by peasant and indigenous communities violates articles 19, 24 and 26 of the Forest Law.
Santiago del Estero has had three murders in three years. Sandra Ely Juárez died in front of a bulldozer of cardiac arrest on March 13, 2010, in the rural area of San Nicolás. 33 years old, two children. He intended to prevent peasants from ravaging the mountains.
Cristian Ferreyra, 23 years old, father of a child, a member of the Santiago del Estero Peasant Movement (Mocase-Via Campesina), murdered on November 16, 2011 in San Antonio, northern province.
On October 10, 2012, Miguel Galván, from the Lule-Vilela Town and also from the Mocase-VC was assassinated by an employee of a soybean businessman (the Mocase directly calls him a “hitman”). The crime happened in the Simbol area, on the border with Salta.
In Formosa, the Potae Napocna Navogoh (La Primavera) community has been fighting for five years. Besieged by intensive agriculture and the government of Gildo Insfrán, on November 23, 2010 they suffered a police repression that led to the murder of the Qom Roberto López. On December 9, 2012, the baby Lila Coyipe (10 months old) and her grandmother, Celestina Jara, were run over. Celestina died on the spot, on the asphalt. Lila passed away the next day. The community denounced that "it was not an accident." The Coyipé family is an active fighter for the territorial claim.
On January 9, 2013, in another dubious accident, 16-year-old Juan Daniel Díaz Asijak died. Police and the provincial government argued that Díaz Asijak was drunk. The young man's father, Pablo Asijak, denounced that it was a beating against the background of the territorial dispute.
The young man was the nephew of the community leader and a reference in the Qom struggle, Félix Díaz.
In Salta there were still no murders, but because he missed the aim. “There has been a clear violation of the rights of Creole and indigenous people, potential damage to the environment, weakness in the actions of the Province to solve the observed facts and the existence of a latent social conflict, which demands the urgent attention from all the authorities in order to avoid an escalation that produces consequences that are impossible to remedy, ”warned the National Ombudsman's Office in a fourteen-page report in December 2012.
The Ombudsman's Office toured the northeast of Salta (National Route 81, from Embarcación to the town of Los Blancos, bordering Formosa), where it verified clearing in prohibited areas, violence against communities, non-compliance with laws, lack of control by the provincial government and the absence of the National Institute of Indigenous Affairs (INAI).
"Violation of the rights of Creole and indigenous people due to irregular boundaries and clearings" is the name of the Ombudsman's work. “The visited region is under high dismantling pressure driven by the high values of soybeans that have 'pushed' livestock out of the central areas of Argentina, displacing it towards the great Argentine Chaco and therefore also to Salta. These changes directly affect the traditional system of cattle production of the Chaco Creole ”, affirms the Defensoría.
Buenos Aires trees
The second week of February one of the topics on the journalistic agenda was the works of the Buenos Aires metrobus and the fate of part of the trees on 9 de Julio Avenue. The media linked to the National Government gave wide coverage to the "porteño clearing." About 200 trees transplanted or felled.
“We are not going to drop a single tree. The trees are sacred, the trees do not touch, at least here in Calafate ”, said the President on February 15, from Santa Cruz, in obvious contrast to what happened in the City of Buenos Aires. He returned to the same idea in Tecnopolis, on February 21, in another public speech: “There are the trees, look how wonderful, take a good look at how we respect them and made them little fences (…) I wanted to show them how we have taken care of the trees because I I said, 'They don't take a tree out of me.'
The Buenos Aires trees also moved the Kirchnerist philosopher Ricardo Forster, one of the referents of Carta Abierta. He wrote an extensive article in the newspaper Página12. "Overwhelmed by the evil he saw on 9 de Julio Avenue when, on infamous nights, brigades dressed in yellow destroy and damage those defenseless creatures that offer us their beauty, their purified oxygen and their shadow in exchange for nothing, that we simply let them be there, I can only express my indignation and my sadness at the irrecoverable, "lamented Forster.
Last November, dozens of indigenous organizations (among them the Plurinational Indigenous Council) agreed on a document in which they denounced the extractive model, the business advance on indigenous territories, the repression of the communities and demanded respect for human rights. They delivered it to the National Congress and the Government House.
In January, a group of intellectuals and cultural people wrote an open letter to the President. They warned about the "escalation of violence where little or no capacity for action of the State is exhibited to properly arbitrate these conflicts, violence and abuse of rights that indigenous peoples suffer today." Signed (among others) by the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano and the journalist Osvaldo Bayer, the open letter to the President requested the intervention of the National State and, most fundamentally, that the Government condemn the repressions and murders of peasants and indigenous people.
No referent of the Open Letter space, intellectuals who support the Government, signed the letter.
The President did not acknowledge receipt of the request and did not condemn the violence against peasants and indigenous people.
* Article published in MU 63 magazine at http://www.lavaca.org