The Qom indigenous community from the province of Formosa were granted a hearing with the Supreme Court yesterday. After on-going issues with the provincial government over land rights, the commitment was made to introduce the Supreme Court as a “referee” and “mediator”.
The provincial government were joined by the National Parks Management and the National Institute for Indigenous Affairs in the pledge to the Supreme Court to accelerate proceedings in order to delineate and officially determine the community’s ancestral land rights. The community have been claiming the land for many years, and the granting of a hearing marks a significant step in their struggle to reclaim it.
The hearing saw an agreement that land studies and surveys would be conducted as soon as possible to determine the territorial boundaries of land which the Qom community has been claiming for years. The Supreme Court will decide whether the Qom’s claim over 5,187 hectares in Formosa is valid and should officially be listed as indigenous land, or whether it in fact belongs to the provincial or federal government.
Félix Díaz, head of the Qom community, asked President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to “contribute to the ending of this conflict by encouraging the claim of indigenous peoples through the application of law 26,160, and favour the results of the land survey.”
The hearing also saw important aspects agreed upon, such as the decision to hold meetings between official bodies later in the year to discuss climate issues and the potential flooding of the Pilcomayo river that frames the disputed territories.
As the hearing was taking place in Buenos Aires yesterday, in the province of Chaco -which borders Formosa- a Qom man, Florentín Díaz, was killed. His death has been met with accusations that it was caused by the violent police eviction of protesting communities. The government minister of Chaco stated that the official cause of death according to both the police and hospital is from “a traffic accident”, while the Institute for Chaco Aboriginals maintains that the death occurred at the hands of the police when Díaz escaped from their hold, and say that his son was killed alongside him. The death occurred during a time of extreme political and police crackdown on protesters from 13 different communities, including the Qom, who were protesting and created a road block. The police dismantlement of the protest left 50 injured, and over 100 people arrested.
The Qom communities reside principally in the Chaco, Formosa, and Sante Fe provinces of Argentina.