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News: International Relations
Protest in Argentina against Seabord Corperation
by David Reese and Jonathan Everhart
(No verified email address)
Current rating: 0
12 Mar 2004
Activists converge on Kansas-based Seaboard Corporation to denounce violent eviction of the Ava Guaraní indigenous community
[Buenos Aires] A group of 400 activists from indigenous communities, unemployed workers movements, popular assemblies, local, and international supporters marched on the Seaboard offices in Buenos Aires, demanding that the company return 5,000 hectares of land to its indigenous owners. The group blocked much of Avenida Alem, in the center of the Buenos Aires business district, as it marched towards the offices of the Shawnee Mission, Kansas based corporation. Protesters with their faces painted as skulls lined the front of the office building, closing the entrance for three hours. Representatives from Argentine indigenous communities denounced Seaboard and other transnationals as a continuation of over 500 years of genocide. The protest had a festive atmosphere, filling the street with music and dance.
[photo by Nicolás Solo]
The protest was organized in solidarity with the Ava Guaraní indigenous community, struggling to reclaim their ancestral land in northern Argentina. During the 1970s, the Ava Guaraní were one of the many indegenous communities in Argentina displaced by, and then forced to work in, the plantations and sugar factories of San Martin del Tabacal. The Guaraní’s fertile forest was destroyed to plant cash crops of sugar cane and GMO soy, replacing the traditional community production of corn, manioc, and local vegetables. In 1996, Seaboard, a US corporation based in Kansas, bought the Tabacal sugar industry, which had originally displaced the Ava Guarani. Seaboard quickly laid off 6,000 employees because of new machines that required fewer workers.
On September 10, 2003, the Guaraní decided to return to their land, finding no hope in the desperate conditions of unemployment and poverty in the city. At the request of Seaboard, they were then forcefully displaced from their ancestral territory, known as “La Loma”. Police arrived in the middle of the night without presenting a judge's order, intimidating the 150 Ava Guaraní families present, aiming guns at people's heads--including pregnant women, children and elders--and discharging firearms into the air.
[photo by Zula]
“The sugar company is stained with blood. Now is the time to return and fight for our land,” a fiery Silvia Cañanima of the Ava Guaraní explained to the crowd. Of the groups represented at the protest, many pledged to continue support and build links between movements. Unemployed workers movements at the protest announced a boycott of “Azucar Chango”, the sugar produced by the Seaboard Corporation. Many saw the protest as an important step in linking two Argentine struggles facing similar repression, indigenous struggles and unemployed workers movements. International activists simultaneously kicked off a campaign to pressure the Seaboard Corporation, noting that communities in the United States have also been struggling against the Corporation’s practices, most notoriously labor, immigrant, and animal rights issues on its pig farms.
The Ava Guaraní promised to continue the struggle, “Our Guaraní brothers and sisters, though far away, are here with us, and our ancestors are here as well, giving us their blessings. We will continue this struggle tirelessly, until we can return to our ancestral land.”