MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Three Years, 50 Marches, The Mountains And The People On Their Feet

Published by MAC on 2006-03-23

Three Years, 50 Marches, the Mountains and the People On Their Feet

Press Release #50 of NO TO THE MINE ASSEMBLY OF SELF-ORGANIZED NEIGHBORS OF ESQUEL

www.noalamina.org

23rd March 2006

With colorful balloons, the residents of Esquel marched this afternoon celebrating the three year anniversary of the referendum of March 23, 2003, despite rain, cold and a telling silence from the local political powers. The popular consult three years ago shook the municipal government and city council, and galvanized the community, 81% of whom voted to reject the gold and silver mining operations which Canadian Meridian Gold/Minera El Desquite had planned to carry out. Similar popular consults done during this time, organized by residents of Epuyén, Trevelin and Lago Puelo, also carried results overwhelmingly opposed to mining activity throughout the region. The historic plebesite of March 23 made definative that the population of this city in the west of the Patagonian province of Chubut does not want the development of extractive operations.

During the gathering in San Martin plaza, local musicians sang, in addition to reading the numerous greetings received from all over the country. In the gazebo was a display of over fifty works made by schoolchildren showing their concerns over the care of the water. Before beginning the march, residents unveiled a ceramic mosiac, donated by the workers of FASINPAT (Fabrica Sin Patrones, ex-Zanon, a worker-occupied factory in Neuquén) at the foot of the statue of General San Martin, with the legend: "Water Is Worth More Than Gold - This Community Says NO to Dirty Mining."

In front of City Hall, the demonstrators suspended three large balloons which carried the banner of the anniversary march: "Three Year, Fifty Marches, The Mountain and the People On Their Feet." They expressed their opposition to Mayor Williams who last year enabled the mining company to begin movements to try and reinitiate mining operations despite his having said he will respect the NO that the people have declared. During the march through the downtown streets, the residents sang their solidarity with the residents of Entre Rios, chanting: "The mines contaminate, just like the paper mills."

"With fifty marches behind us, so the agents of death can see and feel, the mountain continues to rise up," expressed a neighbor at the doorstep of the offices of the mining company, reading the document of the demonstration. In the text, the Mayor, the current Governor of Chubut Mario Das Neves, and the local officials of Meridian Gold, Julio Hermida and Guillermo Mendoza, were identified as "merchants of death and disaster who rule and exploit our country in order to plunder our resources." A neighbor linked the memory of those who were disappeared during the military dictatorship as "an example to continue with the same dedication the struggle in Esquel and throughout the Andes against plunder and contamination." When it began to rain again, the reading of the document also ended with "we will continue demonstrating that people, the People, cannot be sold, cannot be bought.

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