The Formosa Government Expropriates Indigenous Land
Date: 28 April, 2004
The Native Peoples Week 2004 began in mourning in Formosa. What originally was meant to be a celebration became a funeral, yet another sign of grief and dispossession affected the Pilagá Village and, at the same time, it evidenced the true official colours, the arrogant and authoritarian government policy towards these people and the poor peasants, who were also expulsed from their land. The communities at Pilagá in Campo del Cielo and Kilómetro 30 located in the Bañado La Estrella zone, West Formosa have just been expropriated by the provincial Representatives pursuant to Law No. 1439 that establishes that these properties are for public use and subject to expropriation because the land is affected by the project Reconstruction and Adaptation – Waterway Complex, Provincial Route 28 (Reconstrucción y Adecuación – Complejo Hidrovial Ruta Provincial No. 28) – Bañado La Estrella. Additionally, another 20 properties owned by peasant families who originate from the humble and sacrificed Creole settlers born on this land, and whose legal status varies depending on each individual case. These Creoles, pioneers in the region, settled in this inhospitable place and made it productive, generation after generation. The Bill was the initiative of governor Gildo Insfran (PJ) and was dealt with at the proposal table of Deputy Governor Floro Bogado. These ancestral lands for which the communities had titles and had recovered with organized demonstrations and struggles since entering democracy in 1983, have once again been taken from their hands. Mr. Bogado himself, who at the time was governor, on behalf of the provincial government publicly gave them the land in the midst of a Pilagá full of ritual and ceremony, in Campo del Cielo . Now, Mr. Bogado himself, behind the walls of the House of Representatives and together with the 18 Justicialista representatives, has divested the owners of the land in the name of progress and civilization. Along with 20 Creole families. This measure creates a very dangerous precedent for all the indigenous communities in the Province; it is a provocation and serious threat to their future. So a law can take away our land? ask those who wake up to the tragic news during the Native Peoples Week. This procedure infringes upon Constitutional Guarantees and International Law given that these lands, pursuant to Article 75, paragraph 17 of the National Constitution, Article 79 of the provincial constitution and Articles 14 and 35 of Agreement 169 cannot be expropriated since they belong to the community and are not transferable, i.e., they cannot be sold, and expropriation is a compulsory sale. Two schools were also expropriated. The settlers presented an administrative complaint to the Ministry of Federal Planning, Public Investment and Services, and the works have been provisionally suspended. The government funding agency, thanks to the 1118-AR loan from the Inter-American Development Bank, has just authorized to restart the works, demanding the province to apply the expropriation law. The native people and peasants are not against the works, but they want them to be reconsidered, because there are other alternatives already proposed that do not affect the native people and Creoles.