The following is the translated joint statement issued by the Union of Community Assemblies of Chubut, Argentina (UACCh), launching their third popular initiative "Chubut Sin Megaminería" ("No Megamining in Chubut"). The Assemblies are collecting signatures from residents in the province in an effort to present a bill which, if turned into law, could strengthen protections for water and the environment from the devastating impacts of industrial mining. See the original statement in Spanish. For more on this initiative and the popular support for permanently banning all industrial mining in the province of Chubut, Argentina, read our latest blog.
Third Popular Initiative: No Large Scale Mining in Chubut
The Assemblies and Communities of Esquel, Puerto Pirámides, Rawson, Trelew, Corcovado, Comodoro Rivadavia, Lago Puelo, Dolavon, Las Golondrinas, Epuyén, El Maitén, El Hoyo, Puerto Madryn and Trevelin, who together make up the Union of Community Assemblies of Chubut (UAACh), are gathered together on January 15 and 16 in the territory of Cordillera. We’ve come together after a week of repression following the [passing of a law to rezone parts of the province to allow for mining] – with protests culminating in the ChubutAGUAzo and the repeal of the law written by and for mining companies and endorsed by Chubut’s corrupt legislature.
As Assemblies, we took part in the protests across the province and supported mobilizations across the country, demonstrating strong national support [for our cause] and outcry against the repression that water protectors faced.
Such unchecked repression not only left people with bullet wounds; it also laid bare how the State protects extractivist capitalism through systematic violence, without consideration for attacking their own citizens (INCLUDING CHILDREN). They surrounded the towns of Rawson and Trelew and for six hours non stop, they shot at the public hospital and at makeshift shelters. This violence has left scars that will be difficult to forget, including physical and psychological harm, and the persecution and criminalization of our comrades.
Both the legislative and executive branches of government tried to go behind the backs of communities to impose large scale mining projects by deploying security forces, using the legislature as an illegal detention centre (where two of our comrades were detained), shooting at will, hunting people down – including children – and prosecuting those who marched in defense of life, leaving them abandoned and ignored by the justice system during the days of the massacre. We are empowered knowing that the path to hope lies with the people in the streets.
We have been living with this extreme violence for years – from the disapperance of Reymundo Pino, to the unsolved murders of Tino John and Elías Cayicol Garay, to the many other deaths, outsourced repression, criminalization, raids, and other events that underscore the lack of guarantees for our rights at the provincial and national levels. The national government also remained silent during the days of repression.
The State and mining companies are trying to break our bonds of solidarity and provoke fear of protest by harassing people on the streets. But stigmatizing and prosecuting those who protect water and defend life has the opposite effect. As water protectors, this only strengthens our struggle and our resolve to exercise our legitimate right to protest. We are proud to be part of the dignified and rebellious People of Chubut, who have not given up in their fight for a better future, showing that real power lies in the streets.
This power, granted by the people and echoed in the chant “Now we’re going for the PI [Popular Initiative]” (“Ahora vamos por la IP”), is what propels us to launch – a month after the triumphant repealing of the zoning law – the 3rd Popular Initiative. The Popular Initiative was never treated with the rigour or seriousness it was due and was fraudulently modified when it was first presented before the legislature in 2014. The second time (2020), it was completely ignored by the legislature. This third Popular Process is backed by all those who filled the streets and town squares across the country and is strengthened for having already overturned a mining law – an unprecedented achievement in the country’s history. Together with Mendoza (and now with the #Atlanticazo), Chubut continues to forge a path forward towards the total ban of large-scale mining and the protection of all fresh and salt watersheds. The third Popular Initiative will advance and be passed because Chubut has already decided, NO means NO.
And just as Chubut has already decided, others across the country who oppose the oil wells in the Argentine Sea are joining this cry and uniting with this struggle. The people marching for the #Atlanticazo will join us in the streets on the 4th day of every month to say that WATER is worth more than anything, demonstrating that it is the strength of the people that changes government decisions.
Indigenous Peoples also know on an intimate level this state-corporate violence, this enduring mark that cuts to the deepest parts of our being and that – even in the face of criminal prosecution – cements the bonds of solidarity. The recovery of the ancestral territories of Lof Quemquemtrew and Lof Cayunao are represented in the flag of our assemblies, since the defense of territory is the defense of water. It is one struggle – the struggle for life. We lift up the dignity of the communities of the Meseta (plateau) in rejecting the fraudulent aid from Pan American Silver, the same entity that would leave them without water. It is the people who will save the people, this is the reality. And it will be all the people of Chubut who will decide and who will accompany the territory of the Meseta in activities that are truly life-generating.
We are people, people of conscience, people who are knowingly determined to defend the significance of life – life without contamination, without large scale mining, without governments who persecute, repress, and criminalize us. With the conviction that another model for society is possible. That is why we fight and we continue to be in the streets, marching with strength and vitality, just like the river.
CHUBUT HAS ALREADY DECIDED
Development and approval of the People’s Law: Prohibition of large scale mining in all of Chubut by Popular Initiative.
NO to the forced removal of Lof Quemquemtrew and Lof Cayunao!
Water for Yala Laubat!
Stop militarizing the territories!
No more repression and criminalization of protest!
THEY WILL NOT PASS!