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Last Thursday 11th October, thousands of people organized the 3rd National March in Defense of Land and Natural Goods in Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo as a reaction to the advance of the concentration and foreignization of land, the expulsion of rural workers and family farmers, the high levels of contamination, the destruction of common goods and the loss of food sovereignty.
The march was organized by over 30 organizations and rural groups from different departments from family farmers and rural workers to environmental and anarchist groups. The diversity of participants was viewed as a positive example of unity within their diversity.
A growing threat
Real World Radio spoke with representatives of different organizations that oppose mining at the march. One of them is Dinorah, from the Union of Neighbors of La Paloma, an organization that is resisting the construction of a massive port in the coastal area to transport iron from the country, exploited by the company Aratiri.
Dinorah said: “The third meeting of coastal communities already took place. The residents of the coastal communities of Rocha department are organized to say we need to reach a consensus, the residents have to decide on issues that are so important for us and for the country”.
The neighbors of La Paloma are also resisting a project that would benefit UPM (formerly Botnia) to build a road that leads to the port, where the company would stock wood to later transport it to its pulp mill in Fray Bentos, in Rio Negro department. A demonstration against the construction of this road was repressed over a month ago. Dinorah talks about the few benefits that the works would have for the community: “What is going to happen is that 22 trucks a day will be unloading wood at the port, where there is a boat waiting. This operation only creates 11 jobs. We are talking about 3 security guards, 2 crane drivers and staff to load and unload things at the port. This is all the benefit for La Paloma”.
The project of Zamin Ferrous transnational corporation (locally, Aratiri) is not the only mining project in the country. Multinational corporation Orosur Mining has requested authorization for gold mining in 53 hectares of land in San Jose, which represents nearly 10% of the territory in the department.
We interviewed Reinaldo Martin, member of the association of dairy farmers of San Jose. He said: “Orosur Mining is about to install a gold mine where milk is produced.
This is an attempt against sustainable development in our sector. There is a settled rural population with a sustainable activity. We believe that an extractive activity cannot be prioritized so we need to raise public awareness”.
The producer said that in case the 53,000 hectares of land are exploited, this would affect the rural family farmers.
“Our land is not for sale”
After demonstrating outside the Presidential building, where they chanted slogans against mining, the march went to Plaza Libertad where they read a declaration. They talked about the threat that implies the fact that nearly 3,5 million hectares of land would be lost to mining activities, mainly gold and iron mining.
They also questioned other large scale activities that take over productive land, more specifically forestation and pulp production, which use up over a million hectares of land, together with soy monoculture plantations and the use of agrotoxics associated with it. They also criticized the investment protection treaties signed by the government, because they leave the Uruguayan judiciary no role in settling foreign investment conflicts.
Finally, they reclaimed the right of the populations to decide what model of country they want. The demonstrators ended with the slogan: “Our land is not for sale. We need to protect it”.
Proclama de la 3ra. Marcha Nacional en Defensa de la Tierra y los Bienes Naturales
More photos at: http://www.rebelarte.info/Marcha-Nacional-en-Defensa-de-la
“Este triunfo de Uruguay debe ser un llamado urgente a analizar, revisar, renegociar o anular cuando corresponda todos los tratados bilaterales de comercio y de protección de inversiones que ha suscrito el país, antes de exponernos a nuevas demandas en las que podemos correr con distinta suerte que en la recién finalizada”.
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