This morning, Federal Judge Eva Parcio ordered the eviction of the ‘Dragons’, picketers that continue to block access to the Cerro Dragón oil field.
Parcio ordered that infantry troops and members of the provincial Special Group of Police Operations (GEOP) be dispatched to remove the protests, which have been ongoing since 21st June. She called for the use of “techniques of dissuasion that avoid the use of violence”.
The decision came after a meeting with prosecutor Blas Meza Evans and the legal secretary of the provincial government of Chubut, Miguel Montoya.
Martín Buzzi, governor of the province of Chubut in which the oilfield is located, responded that the state government is “evaluating different options” and is “not going to repress…but is going to further action taken against this unpunished behavior of a violent group”.
Buzzi further indicated that his government has reports that some of the picketers are armed and remarked that “no one should have any doubt that since the beginning of violent acts in Cerro Dragón some people have decided to utilize this group to generate chaos and destabilization”.
Earlier this week, the Dragons expanded their picket line to include the intersections of routes 3 and 26 and 3 and 29. Now, in addition to blocking access to the Cerro Dragón oil field, controlled by Pan American Energy (PAE), access is also partially blocked to other oil fields held by YPF and Capsa.
Cerró Dragón is the largest oil field in Argentina, and produces 18% of the country’s crude oil. Since the beginning of the protests, it is estimated that production at the field has fell 80%, costing the province approximately $AR4m per day.
Protestors represent dissident members of the Construction Workers Union of Argentina (UOCRA). They are demanding higher wages and better working conditions from PAE, which is held in part by British Petroleum and the China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC).
Little progress has been made in negotiations between workers and their employer.
The protest has been violent and destructive. Some of PAE’s facilities and at least 43 of the company’s trucks have been destroyed.
After members of the gendarme were killed in a collision while returning from mediating in Chubut earlier in the protests, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced that the national force will no longer be deployed to assist with provincial conflicts.