Unions, indigenous peoples fight against “reforms” of mining and police repression in Argentina

This story originally appeared in Truthout on July 3, 2023. Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission.

For weeks now, the people of Jujuy, Argentina, have taken to the streets to oppose right-wing political attacks on wages and the right to protest. In recent days, the conflict has escalated with heavy police repression in the largely indigenous and impoverished province.

Reports from the ground show, among other things, repression mass deployments of riot police, people are haunted on the street and home invasions. However, there are also many videos of defiance, including huge marchesNative women cooperate to expel plainclothes policemen of their protests and expressions of solidarity from sugar workers and miners.

Much of Jujuy’s on-the-ground coverage comes from the La Izquierda Diario Network, a network of socialist websites to which I contribute, including Left voice And La Izquierda Diario. The network is affiliated with the Party of Socialist Workers, which has recently gained growing influence in the province’s political landscape.

It is a partial reform of the provincial constitution that opens more land in Jujuy to the extraction of raw materials, while criminalizing various forms of protest. Jujuy is part of the “lithium triangle,” a region that holds more than 50 percent of the world’s lithium reserves. In the context of global competition for lithium, Jujuy and other parts of the region are strategic targets for multinationals. This forms the basis for a larger conflict between the communities living and working in the region and capitalists seeking to expand relationships with foreign capital.

Jujuy’s right-wing governor Gerardo Morales — whose Radical Civic Union (UCR) party has the majority in the provincial legislature — pushed through the reform quickly over the course of two weeks. In response, protests quickly erupted outside the parliamentary compound and across the province.

The reform contains many points that have angered the province’s workers and the large indigenous community, most notably the “ban on roadblocks”. Roadblocks are one of them main tactic of peaceful protest that the indigenous community has used to voice their opposition. As Governor Morales works to push through the reform, teachers across Argentina are battling pay cuts. This has led teachers in Jujuy to unite their struggle with the movement against constitutional reform.

Police used rubber bullets and tear gas against the demonstrators. Michael Lamasa 17-year-old who lost an eye when police shot a rubber bullet through his head has become a symbol of the repression. Health workers, journalists and even an elected official has been arrested. a video shows police arresting Natalia Morales, a Jujuy legislator from the Party of Socialist Workers, by dragging her by her limbs across an asphalt road. She has since been released, but dozens of lower profile people remain detained or are missing.

The legislature passed the reform on June 20 with bipartisan support from the UCR and the centre-left Justicialista Front. Representatives of the multiparty left opposition, the Left Unity Front, including Natalia Morales, have denounced the reform and join the protests in the streets. As a result of the protests, Governor Morales suspended two articles of the reform, 36 and 50, which removed language from the provincial constitution that codified the rights of indigenous peoples to practice their culture and stated that private property violates health, safety, should not interfere with health and safety. freedom or human dignity, but the mobilizations continued to demand a complete withdrawal of the reform.

The movement is beginning to gain support on a national level. Marches were held across the country on June 22 in solidarity with the protests. Throughout the week, unions called for strikes in solidarity. Some of the biggest calls included the teachers’ union in Argentina, which issued a call national strike on June 21, and the Jujuy branch of Confederación General del Trabajo, the largest trade union federation in Argentina, which, along with several other trade union federations, staged general strikes in Buenos Aires and Cordoba.

Several human rights organizations and leading environmental activists have denounced the repression and stepped up the fight, including Amnesty International, Rebellion of Extinction And Greta Thunberg.

Governor Morales, who is running for president in the upcoming 2023 election, is unlikely to back down without intense pressure. Whether or not he successfully passes reform in Jujuy will likely affect how much support he can get from sectors friendly to the extraction policies he represents in Jujuy.

While the stakes are high for Morales, they are also high for workers and indigenous people in Jujuy and throughout Argentina, who are suffering from a severe economic crisis. They are unlikely to endure even lower wages and extraction by foreign capital. In this context, it comes as no surprise that Jujuy has become the epicenter of the struggle in Argentina, and there are no signs that the resistance will die down anytime soon.

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