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Water as a human right

Water as a human right

The organization Pueblos Catamarqueños en Resistencia y Autodeterminación (Pucará, which brings together assemblies in the province) called and organized the First Water Summit. The headquarters was the National University of Catamarca. With the auditorium full, Marcos Pastrana, a reference for the Diaguita People and a pioneer in the fight against mega-mining, made a historical journey from the indigenous perspective of the looting of the northern countries on Latin America.

“If they kill the water they kill the culture and the life of the people. There are no human rights if nature is not respected ”, stated Pastrana. He questioned that the promoters and legitimators of the extractive model put aside the knowledge of the people and privilege the power of money. "The mining companies buy rulers, they buy judges and journalists, but the consciences of those who fight in defense of the territory will not be able to," he warned.

He recalled that another way of life is possible, the "sumaj Kawsay", a Quechua term that refers to the "good living" of native peoples, without predating nature, without consumerism.

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize and head of the Peace and Justice Service (Serpaj) gave a reading in Latin American terms, “these are difficult moments” and with the right wing in advance. “We are not here just for the water. We are to confront the domination of capital over the peoples. When territories are handed over to multinationals, sovereignty is being lost ”, he clarified. He defined mega-mining as "colonial looting."

“The right of the peoples to self-determination, a healthy environment, development, and sovereignty must be fulfilled. We have the right to live with dignity. If these rights are violated, it ceases to be a democracy, ”said Pérez Esquivel.

The meeting was carried out in a self-managed way, and summoned activists and researchers from Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Uruguay, among other countries. The situation of the GMO and agro-toxic agribusiness, the contamination and violation of the rights of the oil companies in Neuquén and Mendoza, the dams that flood territories and evict thousands of people (the most worrying is the Garabí project in Misiones), the expansion of the urban frontier, lithium mining and scientific complicity, nuclear energy and its consequences.

The work in commissions was then put in common, debated and consensus was sought in plenary sessions on Sunday. From there a final document emerged that will be made public this morning and it will also be announced where the second water summit will be held.

One aspect of the daily agenda in the socio-environmental assemblies, especially after 2001, is the questioning of delegative-representative democracy, the “conservative limits of current democracy”, voting only every two years and that those representatives believe they have rights to decide extractive activities in territories far from the center of political power. On the other hand, the votes of Esquel and Loncopué (against mega-mining), in Misiones (1996 and 2014) are examples of direct democracy over territories, where the affected populations decide which activities they privilege.

Another axis is to frame extractivism as a systematic violation of human rights and not limit it to the environment (as political and media sectors do). A whole message that Pérez Esquivel and Nora Cortiñas, one of the few figures who unite the complaint against the last dictatorship and support for the territorial struggles of the present, have been at the opening of the summit.

The summit was broadcast live on community radio FM Estación Sur and the National Alternative Media Network (RNMA). During the two days it was evident the need to articulate struggles, sustain the resistance with joy and the construction outside the political parties. "We put catharsis aside and take note of our strengths, to stop being on the defensive and go on the offensive, to dispute from the street, with our capacity for organization, territorial work, with scientists and enforcing our rights", warned Cristina Arnulphi, an assembly member from Córdoba.

Nora Cortiñas, from Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo Línea Fundadora was also at the opening day. “We are not afraid (to fight). Water is worth more than gold ”, he began his speech and already started a wave of applause and shouts of approval. With the emblematic white scarf and the green one on his left wrist, he remembered Santiago Maldonado, Rafael Nahuel "and all the dead that do not appear in the newspapers."

He vindicated the struggle of the native peoples, regretted that in Argentina “many find out late” about the violation of rights suffered by indigenous communities and stressed that many of the current struggles are for land. It united concepts, actors and actions that make up the same model: extractivism, loss of sovereignty, imperialism, multinationals, foreign debt. In the end, fist raised, he called to "transform the protest and proposal" and "never leave the streets."

The audience responded standing up, fists raised, with endless applause.

Defend life

"It is not for sale, the water defends itself", was one of the main songs of the two days. There was rock and folklore, painted a dozen murals distributed throughout the city and specific activities for children. In terms of purpose, we worked on agroecology (healthy food, without pesticides), food sovereignty and fair trade. “We fight to leave a better world for our children and grandchildren, we want participatory democracy. Let governments and transnational companies know that we will continue to defend water as a common good, of all, and not as a commercialized natural resource. We will continue defending life, "said Sergio Martínez, from the El Algarrobo Assembly of Andalgalá and Pucará.

Photo by Juan Alaimes

By Darío Aranda. Full version of the article published in the newspaper Página12 on September 17, 2018.

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