In San Salvador de Jujuy, Argentina, a turbulent revolt has arisen for weeks against the reform of the Provincial Constitution that will leave indigenous people landless to pave way for mega-projects for the extraction of lithium for foreign companies. In addition, the people are facing merciless repression by the provincial security forces. Numerous cases of human rights abuse by the Police have been denounced, including violations of the so-called human rights.
The situation in Argentina is completely out of control, Data from April 2023 show that Argentina suffers from 8.4% inflation, accumulating 32% annually. But the real rate in basic foods is 115%, which means that food costs more than twice as a year ago, only behind Lebanon with 352% food inflation.
Faced with this situation, there are increasing cases of families having difficulty for eating, and this especially affects single-parent families, who are mainly single mothers who work and have small children.
Argentina is one of the countries possessing the largest lithium reserves, approximately 20.5% of world reserves. Currently, lithium is one of the most used elements in the industry by batteries, among other products. That is why the monopoly companies of the imperialist countries, in this case Toyota or Allkem, invests heavily in these lands and is expected to expand these projects in Argentina. The president of the country wants to multiply by 10 the production of lithium in the Latin American country. It is to facilitate this economic interest for which a change in the Provincial Constitution is being raised on the table to be able to grant these lands to foreign companies by looting them from the indigenous Argentine people. Therefore, the struggle for the land in Argentina will continue to be one of the determining points of the country’s struggles.
The constitutional reform that has caused the most resentment amongst the people has been that of article 36. In this article about the “right of private property” there are added “mechanisms and fast ways” for land eviction, as the “not consented occupation” is considered “a serious violation”. The problem is that a large number of communities residing in the mining area and where lithium deposits are, around 300 communities are found. They hold no title over their lands and possess not any right with this constitutional change. On top of this, the indigenous people have been flooding the streets for weeks protesting this reform that denied property over their ancestral lands.
After the approval of a controversial provincial constitutional reform that bans public protests in the northern Jujuy province, thousands of citizens flooded the streets to invite the wrath of violent repression from the police on June 20. Jujuy Governor Gerardo Morales, a member of the opposition, accused the government of President Alberto Fernández of backing the protests.
On the morning of June 20, the day that the reform was supposed to be endorsed, the provincial legislature was fenced off. Thousands of protesters including members of unions, social organizations and Indigenous groups, began gathering throughout the provincial capital before noon.
Morales, who governs the province that sits 1,500 kilometers North of Buenos Aires, paved way for a provincial constitutional reform that bans protests that take place in the streets and highways, a common protest mechanism in the region and country-wide, and that provides for lithium mining in the region without resistance.
“The exercise of the right of demonstration cannot hinder the exercise of other rights and this is the debate that has to do with the consolidation of peace,” said Morales about the controversial reform during the legislative debate for its approval. “We are not going to back down,” he added..
The reform that has been undertaken has been major cause for the protests igniting .It has a relation to protest rights. With the introduction of the new reform, it is prohibited to occupy buildings to be able to create social pressure during the protests. Therefore, the right to strike and protest is being nullified, since the temporary occupation of a property, such as a company or a public entity, is a weapon that protesters have in hand.
The reform does not only ban public protests, but it also strips Indigenous communities of right to fiscal lands that belong to them but are not recognized formally..
The reform also establishes the province’s total monopoly of its natural resources, as it’s located in one of the most lithium-rich regions in the world, effectively marginalising the national government and Indigenous communities within the province.
Uniting indigenous people, were a large number of teachers, demanded a salary increase. Argentina is now one of the countries with one of the most booming inflation rates. Teachers have met with the head of the Government who already made a proposal for salary improvement, but it was rejected since it did not reach the minimum demanded by workers and therefore they are continuing the struggle.
A striker said: “It was unanimously voted against the offer as it was insufficient, because our members understood that to reach that figure, background items were modified. The strike continues, we are open to dialogue and we clarify that the demand against the reform of the Constitution persists” Professors continued protesting against constitutional reform and salary increase.
During the protests, merciless suppression by the police and security forces were denounced. Police resorted to threats with weapons, controls and arrests even distant from the areas of the demonstrations, dozens of arrests, blows and bad treatment during arrests, use of unidentified vehicles, raiding of homes and individuals without court order, police infiltrations among the protesters and even rubber bullet in the face, which has caused a 17 years old girl to lose an eye .
Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist who has studied liberation struggles worldwide .Thanks information from Argentina reports.com, El Pais and El Diaro .