2nd of January 2020
Translated by a contributor for Tjen Folket Media
By a commentator for Tjen Folke Media
On the night of 25th of December a large Mapuche-group managed to get into the farm of El Maitén in Patagonia, that is owned by the multinational Benetton group. The Mapuche has taken control of a large plot in the area, and have blocked the roads with large logs and big rocks. According to local sources the operation was done by a group of people who had their faces covered and was armed with knives. It is unclear how much of the farms 120000 hectare the Mapuche has secured, but it is estimated to be between 1000 to 2000 hectares.
The farm is located in the Argentinian part of Patagonia, and is used to produce wool for the Italian clothing giant. The Benetton Group has owned the farm since 1991, but it was founded as a company during the late 1800s when a small group of British investors was given an area of 900 000 hectare by an Argentina general as thanks for the help in the “seizure of the desert” where about 100 000 Mapuches was killed. The Benetton Group is now the largest landowner in Patagonia, and is still profiting on the transaction, while the Mapuches are displaced and exploited, and over 90 percent has been stripped of their land.
Also in the Chilean part of Patagonia the Mapuche struggles against imperialist exploitation and for the right to live in peace on their rightful land. We have earlier written about their struggle against the Norwegian state owned company Statkraft.
The conflict between the Mapuche and Benetton has been ongoing for several years. In 2004 Benetton was sued after they had evicted an unemployed Mapuche couple with four children from their house, they were found innocent in court. But the case put a dent in the corporation’s reputation, something they tried to solve by donating land to the Mapuche. This was denied when The Mapuche said that the land did not belong to Benetton, and thus can’t be given away or used as a bribe. To win the court case was not the main goal of the trail. What they wanted to achieve was to put focus on the racism and robbery of the native populations land, and to encourage activism among the natives.
The Mapuche has several times taken back parts of the property. Last time was in 2017, when they “occupied” an area of Villa Mascardi. Where the activist Rafael Nahuel was killed 25th of December 2017, precisely two years before the initiation of this action. Earlier the same year another activist disappears when security forces threw out a group of protesters from Benetton’s area.
Benetton is also engaged in exploitation in other countries, in 2014 they were awarded to the company with the worst ethics by Framtiden i våre hender (The Future in our hands), after they had refused to pay compensation to the victims of the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh. 1138 textile workers, who were practically slaves, died and thousands was hurt.
The Mapuche group, that is members of Lof Kurache, published a statement the same day as they occupied the property. There they establish that with this operation they are initiating a process of taking back the earth from the exploiters.
The statement from Lof Kurache:
To our Mapuche people in the struggle, to all the native people in Abya Yala that resists the exploitation capitalism and colonialism that are determined to organise our lives after the bourgeoisies property rights, to the oppressed people of world who struggles for their freedom with an egalitarian perspective, to conserve the natural ecosystem and with the vision of a society in harmony with nature and a decolonising attitude; to social, peasant- and environmental movements, to alternative and anti hegemonic media that has committed themselves to the people and to conserve the life and territory, we communicate the following:
The families in LOF KURACHE initiates the process of territorial return in El Platero that is occupied by the multinational corporation Tuierras del Sur, owned by Benetton. This decision comes from the principle necessity for the Mapuches to continue their existence in our territory, in the land that is suited for our spiritual, cultural, economical, social and political development, that has been denied to us for more than 140 years. In addition to the narrow or almost non existent guideline for the transfer of productive land, despite the large territorial conflicts that involves Mapuche sisters and brothers in different parts of the Mapuche territory. Priorities, such as in Chubut, where it is created departments for mining and fossil fuels instead of state institutions for expropriation and return of land from unrightful owners, or the creation of intercultural schools in rural areas in the local communities to prevent depopulation of the countryside to the city, displacement of territorial conflicts by the judicial system, or negotiation tables that leads to no concrete solution because of the vacancy of an executive power, and the criminalisation of territorial demands and the use of oppressive protocols to stifle complaints from the community.
For the second our ideological position, that is based on Kimun (knowledge) and Feyetun (religion),leads us to that we today define ourselves as anti-capitalists and gets us to fight against the concentration of land in the hands of the few, to continue to crush the foundations for the economic structure that has led to destruction, suffering and hunger, exploitations of our brothers and poverty for the local communities. And the best way to do this is to restore what is stolen, that which belongs to us after ancestral rights.
For the third, given the advanced mining and the increased utilization of fossil fuel, outlined by the political parasite class to the following national and provincial governments in relation to the multinational corporations that develops at the Zungunkura plateau, we say that our fundamental tool is the return of land and territorial control of the local communities, to continue to preserve the natural ecosystem that has in thousands of years allowed for lifeforms in Mapuche territory to live in full harmony, and to not continue to allow the exploitation of the lan. For these reasons we stand in solidarity and send fraternal greetings to the communities on the plateau that resists the mining company Pan American Silver and their Navidad project, and protects the groundwater reservoirs in Sacanana. Without water there is no life, and we are not talking about bottled water, but about the water that runs free in the territory.
We stand in solidarity with the local communities that struggles against the progress of the Qatari Burco group with the source of the river Chubut, where the most important water comes from, that many communities both in Río Negro and Chubut is dependent on, but that is also sought after by the large multinational corporations and the different mining projects.
Finally we want to encourage all Mapuche workers, temporary workers, house workers, students, constructions workers and unemployed and families to take back the land that is used by the large landowners, as their wealth to these landlords was created by the blood and sweat of our ancestor and thereby belongs to us. We encourage Mapuche sisters and brothers, with unproductive land on the border of the large land properties, to smash the fences and barbed wire. We urge you to put away conflicts between neighbours and unite to struggle against the real enemy, the landlords and large corporations that uses our territory to turn them into a private paradise, large mining corporations and fossil fuel companies, that attempts to sell us false economic progress and wealth in trade for the whole sale of our territory in Wallmapu and our collective goods, so that water and earth becomes totally polluted.
In this way we want to affirm that the best way to honor Rafael Nawels memory, is to continue the fight to reclaim the stolen territory.
– In defence of the groundwater reservoir in Sacanana and the source of the Chubut river.
- Freedom for all political prisoners of the Mapuche people
- Dissolution of Lautaro Gonzalez Curuhinca
- Benetton, Lewis, Van Ditmar, Mindlin, Pan American Silver, Qataries and Máxima Zorraguieta out of Mapuche territory.