To access a Spanish translation of this article, please click on the followingPublished by MAC on 2005-05-28
To access a Spanish translation of this article, please click on the following link.
Comment by Javier Rodríguez Pardo, Calingasta, San Juan, Argentina
28 May, 2005
We have been waging a campaign of information and education about open-pit mining with cyanide and chemical compounds for the past twenty three days, beginning when the City Council of Calingasta passed a resolution calling for a public referendum on the question. Our first contact with the people of Calingasta was through public talks and debates and through dialogues with Mayor Jose Adolfo Ibazeta, who had announced the public referendum.
A few days ago, a group of henchmen sent by San Juan governor Jose Luis Gioja arrived to this Andes mountain region to open a counter-offensive to defend the politics of Multinational Big Mining. The newspapers of San Juan (capital of San Juan province) had informed the government of our activities, while some local political hired thugs dared to confront us with threats. What Gioja's cronies learned in their visit was the companies that practice open-pit mining with chemical compounds will suffer a resounding defeat in the July 3 referendum, and this will provoke a very undesirable political effect throughout the province and nation.
In our radio debates (Radio Impacto) with miners and Gioja supporters in Calingasta, it was clear that our opponents were going to have a hard time recovering from the very bitter messages they both spoke and had to swallow. At the same time, we heightened the education and talks over the damages that this new method of extraction bring, and emphasized the amount of plunder that our country is opening itself to.
We went door-to-door in Calingasta, neighbor-to-neighbor. Sometimes there were twenty or thirty farm workers, pausing in their garlic planting to listen to us. Of course, it is actually quite a lovely task to ply the fields of Barreal and Tamberias, listening to the opinions of the campesinos, sharing a yerba mate and have these meetings, feeling a great pleasure inside, thanks to this rich exchange between people.
Every day we met groups of workers in the "diferimientos" a legal term for developing agrarian projects which are able to defer taxes (IVA) for ten years. Other times we met in a club, in the cafes in town or a meeting place in a local neighborhood. The agricultural associations opened the doors of their houses to us. One talk leads to another, and the discussions continue throughout the day. The water and the glaciers which grace the Andean peaks were the subject of extensive discussions over the need to preserve this precious and exhaustable resource.
Only one of the four radio stations will broadcast our message. Until now, only Radio Manantial identifies with the oppositon to these mine projects, and and has thus become the FM station most listened to, and this enables us to communicate our movements and actions to the neighborhoods.
The Governor appears on the news, blurry, waving a finger accusingly, his index finger nervously shaking, prohibiting the public referendum; a governor who is now seen by the public of San Juan as arrogant and scornful of democratic practices, acting the role of the petty dictator. Meanwhile, he has sent the entire staff of the Subsecretary of Mining, the Minister of Mining and the Mining Police (!) to Calingasta to ineffectively brand us as "eco-terrorists!" Desperate in face of the unfolding fracas, they urge, almost religiously, their party faithful, with a message of apocalypse, to join together and act with loyalty to their party, to come to Calingasta and work to try and change the polls. They know, and cannot hide, that the political opportunists surrounding them can waver and change allegiences quickly, or practice a halfhearted official "militancy." However, others, like the City Council person Pujado, have directly confronted Governor Gioja, deserving the recognition of Calingasta neighbors.
We have had discussions with the mayor and council persons on various occasions, interested in finding a way to actually carry out the "prohibited" referendum. We agreed on various proposals which might be applied, because the people and the community will continue the firm advance together towards July 3, come hell or high water.
In the second consecutive talk we gave to the Neighbors Union of Barreal, Friday May 27, the folks of Calingasta decided that this would be the moment for their first meeting of "Self-Organized" neighbors, and thus turned this into a memorable date, with a decision to march and assemble in Tamberias, on the steps of City Hall, to urge the mayor to not accept political pressures from Gioja, that from now on the fight is between the provincial government and the people, in addition to their representatives.
On Monday May 30, at noon, the community authorities of Calingasta will have to realize that they have reached the point of no turning back; the public referendum called by the people of Calingasta cannot be barred by the Governor or President of any country. May 30, the people of Calingasta will assemble at their town hall to oppose the prohibition of their referendum, and rejecting the decision of the Electoral Commission of Governor Gioja. The people will determine the path of justice, justice which is ignored daily by judges and provencial officials.