Argentinean minister to support the restoration of Mapuche land
17th October 2006 - by Daniel Kelly
Luis D'Elia, Argentina's outspoken under-secretary for Land and Habitat, has given his backing to two Mapuche families in their bid to have restored to them land currently owned by the Italian clothing manufacturer Benetton. The Curiñanco and Nahuelquir families are seeking the restitution of 525 hectares in Chubut province in the south of Argentina .
Mr D'Elia, who came to prominence as the leader of huge street protests during Argentina 's 2001-2002 economic crises, has gained a reputation as an opponent of big foreign land owners and advocates expropriating land and redistributing it to the poor. In a recent interview he said "We believe there are 15,000,000 hectares that are questionable either because they affect the strategic control of our natural resources or because they affect the civil and human rights of indigenous peoples and poor peasants."
Mr D'Elia, who is currently asking Congress to expropriate land belonging to the American textile tycoon Douglas Tomkins, recently told reporters that his next target would be land owned by the Benetton Group, "I have a team of lawyers working on the Benetton issue," he said.
A spokesman for Benetton, which in total owns 900,000 hectares of land in southern Argentina , pointed out that, in the case of the Curiñanco and Nahuelquir families, an Argentine court had already ruled in favour of the company.
If the land is handed over to the Curiñanco and Nahuelquir families it will set an important precedent and may lead to further claims by other Mapuches. Until 1885, when it was seized by the Argentinean state during the so-called “Campaign of the desert,” all the land in the region belonged to the Mapuches.
(Sources: Reuters, MarketWatch)