Today marks one year since the brutal repression of a peaceful roadblock by the indigenous Qom community, La Primavera, in the province of Formosa. On 23rd November 2010 after four months of protesting the construction of a university on their ancestral lands, community members were violently removed by police and armed civilians. The incident resulted in the death of Qom community member Roberto López and policeman Heber Falcón. Police also burned the community’s makeshift homes, and took their belongings and identification cards.
From there La Primavera decided to take the struggle to the capital, and installed an encampment at 9 de Julio and Av. de Mayo that lasted for five months and included a seven-day hunger strike. In May, the community ended the encampment after meetings with the Secretary of Human Rights, officials from the Interior Ministry, and the president of the National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (INADI) that resulted in the construction of a ‘Table of Dialogue’ with the national government, the governors of Formosa, and the community in order to settle the territorial dispute.
Despite the promises, there has been little progress since May. The promised ‘Table of Dialogue’ has yet to convene, and members of La Primavera still face threats from local thugs suspected to be tied to Formosa’s governor Gildo Insafrán, who continues to deny there were any acts of repression by the part of the police.
On Monday, leader of the community Felix Diaz held a press conference in the location of the former encampment, reminding the public of the community’s on-going struggles. Accompanied by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Adolfo Perez Esqivel and members of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo Línea Fundadora, Diaz recounted the past year of the struggle and implored the government to convene talks immediately.
Formosa is a province with one of the starkest income gaps, and home to one of the poorest indigenous populations in the country. The Qom, like many other groups in the region, face grave challenges to their land-based way of life, as encroaching real estate and agricultural sectors prey upon or lay waste to their traditional territory.
Photos by Patricio Guillamón.