MAC: Mines and Communities

General Strike, Road Blockages and Demonstrations in Alvear Against Contaminative Mining and In Favo

Published by MAC on 2007-06-08

General Strike, Road Blockages and Demonstrations in Alvear Against Contaminative Mining and In Favor of Drafting of Environmental Plan

Diario Los Andes

Mendoza, Argentina

8th June 2007

The county of Alvear, Mendoza is experiencing a never before seen wave of protests, with a large popular demonstration of more than five thousand persons and a total cessation of activities. Businesses with their doors shut, schools without students, banks closed, industries stopped and a massive gathering in the central plaza were the arms that the community of this southern Mendoza, Argentina, county used to make their voice heard, against contaminative mining and in favor of the drafting of an environmental plan for the region.

Upon seeing that there were not going to be favorable responses from the Provincial Chamber of Legislators, the people decided to move to the highways outside of town, where they effected the closure of those routes, a blockage which continues to this moment, and have proclaimed that they will remain all night and extend the closure through Saturday. In total, five road blockages were simultaneously carried out: upon the National Routes 188 and 143 (South and North), as well as Provincial Routes 202 and 171, and the last in the district of Real del Padre in San Rafael. The rallying cry was "Yes to Water and To Life" and a rotund "NO" to mining which uses chemical products (cyanide and others) for the extraction of metals in a chemical leaching process.

Regional industries, fruit drying plants, and wineries, halted their operations; banking activities were nil, and even the municipal courts joined in the shutdown. All social actors joined in: Unions, non-governmental organizations, the Church, parents and children. The plaza Carlos Maria de Alvear was host to an uncommon sight: over 5000 persons who came to support the many who traveled to the city in order to follow the popular reactions against the provincial Governor's recent veto of the so-called "Difonso Law," passed by provincial legislature, to prohibit open-pit metals mining operations utilizing cyanide in Mendoza.

"The people have become conscious that this is a problem of the future. We live thanks to agriculture and the production of fruit which we export to 28 countries. We depend upon water and, if it is contaminated, nothing will remain," said Mario Perón and Omar Oller, of the company Fénix, Inc., who participated with their fifty employees in the demonstration. Beginning noon, the massive demonstration took upon a heightened intensity when the people took to the highways. As the road blockages were extended, demonstrators permitted local traffic to pass every half hour.

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