More than 20 indigenous Tonocoté families were violently evicted from their community in Santiago del Estero on Friday, it has emerged. The eviction has caused an outcry among human rights and environmental organisations from around the country.
The eviction of the area, known as Boca del Tigre, was authorised by Judge Tarchini Saavedra, and began at the crack of dawn as police mounted on horses and armed with tear gas, rubber bullets, and dogs bore down on the site, catching the families by surprise as they slept. Bulldozers meanwhile razed the settlement where the Tonocoté have lived for the last 200 years to the ground.
Despite the court order, the farmers were not shown any papers, adding to the confusion and chaos that reigned supreme during the raid.
Head of the community Reyna Sosa described the event: “They came in the dark, they fired pellets and rubber bullets at us, my three grandchildren have head injuries… my daughter, who is pregnant, suffered a leg injury.”
So far no explanation has been given as to why the police used such excessive force, or as to why they began the operation without saying a word.
Greenpeace has released a statement denouncing the events saying, “we condemn the use of repression against the historic inhabitants of the area” and affirming the illegality of the eviction given the area’s protected status under the ‘Ley de Bosques’.
Arrests were also made, and, as one neighbour put it, “they hit them everywhere… they didn’t even resist… they took them straight to the police station”.
The local newspaper, Ultima Hora, believes that the sudden expropriation of the land was initiated in response to a large upcoming real estate development.
According to the paper, they are interested in “20 hectares of land which belong to the community but which are destined for the construction of a private neighbourhood”.
Sosa expressed her desolation at the turn of events, “I feel so sad and impotent in the face of the situation – that they can come and take away what has always been yours” and pleaded that the governor of the province “have a heart… if he had one he would never have allowed them [the police] to fire at children”.
A mass is planned for next Sunday and human rights organisations and those who are sympathetic to the cause are expected to be in attendance.