By Darío Aranda
The flags in front of the march summarized the reasons: "For water and territory", "no to mining", "for life in our territories", "no to law 5915". They left the town of Casira on March 16, passing through La Quiaca, Abra Pampa, Humahuaca and Tilcara. On the 21st it was the turn of a water ceremony in Purmamarca and the meeting with the Kollas and Atacama communities of Susques and the Guayatayoc Basin (which resist lithium mining). On Wednesday 22 it was the turn of the towns of Volcán and Bárcena. And on the 23rd it ended in San Salvador de Jujuy.
"We repudiate the continuity and deepening of clearly mercantilist, neoliberal policies of looting, repression and extermination of our indigenous peoples," states the statement from the Assembly of Free Communities and Indigenous Peoples, a space for articulation born in 2016 and which, from the name of , marks distance from communities and NGOs that participate in the government of Gerardo Morales.
The indigenous leaders walked long hours along the route. They were children, women and men, young and old. Upon reaching other communities, assemblies were held to inform the scope of the questioned law, the advance of mining companies, and specific situations in each community were also analyzed. He rested at night and in the early hours he would march again, with new delegates (from the communities visited) who joined the march. The Kolla, Atacama, Omaguaca and Ocloya people, among others, were present.
In May 2016, the government of Gerardo Morales approved Law 5915, known as "easement" for the passage of conduits and power generation projects. It authorizes companies to enter and make use of indigenous territory, without respecting the laws (both national and international) that establish the consultation and consent of indigenous peoples.
Indigenous communities have no doubts that it is an outpost on indigenous rights and territories. They understand it as one more step to facilitate mining progress and, they specify, it is a violation of the National Constitution, ILO Convention 169 and the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples.
Upon assuming the governorship, Morales appointed Natalia Sarapura, a well-known Kolla activist from the Council of Aboriginal Organizations of Jujuy (COAJ), as head of the Secretariat for Indigenous Peoples, who received support from some communities but also criticized for being part of a government that promotes extractivism in indigenous territories.
Faced with the complaints under Law 5915, Sarapura acknowledged that it was sanctioned without respecting indigenous participation and convened a hearing last December. “It has been a regulation that has brought controversy and concern. For this reason, it was decided to convene an assembly of community presidents and legislative authorities. We are willing to listen to the concerns of the communities, ”the official explained in December.
At the hearing, the majority rejected the law, but the Government still upheld it. The Assembly of Communities and Free Indigenous People stressed that it demands the repeal of the norm and not a “supposed participation” on what has already been sanctioned. “It is a rule that violates the rights of native peoples due to inconsistency, unconstitutional and dispossession. It is a disguised freeway for the advancement of extractive companies, ”summarized Enrique González, one of the spokesmen for the indigenous march.
A strategy of the provincial and national governments is to modify indigenous and environmental laws that may be a brake on the advance of the extractive model. The Ministry of Mining of the Nation has already recognized the attempts to modify the glacier law, in Córdoba a new rule is intended to allow more clearings and in Río Negro it is trying to advance in a new "code of fiscal lands" (which advances on territories Mapuches).
The indigenous communities of Jujuy highlighted their concern about the great drought that affects the Puna and Quebrada area, and denounced the attempted mining of “Chinchillas” (for the exploitation of silver and lead, by the Golden Arrow company) and lithium mining (with huge use of water and pollution). They also required evictions and criminalization of the Cueva del Inca and Pucará communities in Tilcara (for the benefit of tourist entrepreneurs), demanded the delivery of community titles and reiterated, once again, the contamination and violation of the rights of the Minera Aguilar company (of the multinational Glencore-Xstrata).
The Morales government usually uses two slogans: "Pachamama I take care of you" and "Jujuy is Pachamama." The Kolla Enrique González, from the indigenous march, questioned it: "The government's words sound like hypocrisy and superficial and empty folklorism, since the policies applied promote the disappearance of our traditional ways of life."