In a private audience in Vatican, Pope Francis received Félix Diaz, the Qom leader today. The meeting addressed the issue of the land rights of Argentina’s indigenous groups.
Following a request made by Nobel Peace Laureate Adolfo Pérez Ezquivel, who had several times reported “the serious human rights violations suffered by the indigenous communities in Latin America”, Pope Francis met with Diaz. The pope, himself an Argentine, indicated his “preoccupation” about the lack of response from Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s government to the lands demanded by the indigenous communities of Argentina.
The Qom community and other social organisations have been protesting every Wednesday in Plaza de Mayo, in front of the Casa Rosada, given the refusal of President Fernández to receive them. “We ask for justice and dialogue, but no one wants to give us an answer,” said Diaz. The pope promised that he will himself ask the president to receive them, stating the best way to resolve the conflict is through dialogue.
According to Qom leader, the pope “is preoccupied by the lack of strength of the national government – and specifically of Formosa government – which doesn’t want to resolve the conflict.” Catholic priest, Francisco Nazar, who works with indigenous communities in Formosa, and participated to the meeting, said that all of them came out “really happy after 45 minutes of an important discussion.”
It is hoped that the meeting will raise public awareness of what is currently happening to Argentina’s indigenous communities, which represent 2.38% of Argentina’s population, where land rights issues frequently lead to violence. The most recent violent episode occured on 22nd May when an indigenous were killed during confrontation between the police and protestors.