President Mauricio Macri met with indigenous leaders yesterday in the Bicentenary Museum, pledging to work together to solve ongoing territorial disputes and human rights issues.
“If we really start to listen to each other, to understand our different needs, we will start building a new path,” said Macri.
Before the presidential election, Macri visited the indigenous protest camp that had been on Av. 9 de Julio since February awaiting an audience with ex-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
The QOPIWINI indigenous leaders decided to dismantle the camp on 6th December.After accepting Macri’s promising to arrange a meeting once president.
“When I visited the camp I promised to meet the indigenous leaders if I were president and today we happily fulfill this promise,” Macri wrote on Twitter. “We are going to work together to attend the needs of indigenous peoples and achieve our objective of zero poverty.”
Speaking after the meeting yesterday, Qom community leader Félix Díaz, from Formosa province, said: “This is a historic moment for us, to be able to sit down to find a way out from the problems that affect indigenous peoples.”
Díaz added that he hoped for a “dialogue with answers” so that the community would not need to set up new protest camps or roadblocks.
“It is a first step,” explained Relmu Ñamku, leader of the Mapuche community Winkel Newen, who also took part in the meeting. “It is a big challenge for the government and for us. One of the proposals we presented was the creation of a Ministry for Indigenous Affairs, and if this happens then it will require a lot of work and action from indigenous communities to move forward.”
Ñamku also said the meeting was “historic”, but warned of the potential for disputes given the government’s pro-business outlook. “There could be conflicts because we as a people defend our territories against the advance of mining, oil, or other extractivist activies… that is why one of our key demands is to go from acknowledgement to action.”