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Goodbye Benetton from the University of Buenos Aires

Goodbye Benetton from the University of Buenos Aires

In an unprecedented decision, promoted by teachers and students, the Faculty of Agronomy of the UBA rescinded the agreement with the Italian multinational Benetton, owner of the Leleque ranch (where Santiago Maldonado disappeared) and denounced by Mapuche communities.

It was not the government of Chubut. It was not the national government. Neither does the Judiciary. Much less the big media. Benetton, a multinational that is the largest landowner in Argentina (one million hectares), received an unexpected and symbolic question: the Faculty of Agronomy of the University of Buenos Aires (Fauba) canceled the cooperation agreement with the company.

The answer to a question:

The disappearance of Santiago Maldonado on Benetton land occurred within the framework of the repression of the Mapuche community Pu Lof in Resistencia de Cushamen. The case had repercussions on the social, media and political agenda. "Where is Santiago Maldonado?" Became a national campaign. Human rights organizations and indigenous community (among other actors) on the one hand. The National Government, led by Minister Patricia Bullrich, backed the Gendarmerie and its repression.

La Fauba was not unaware of Maldonado's disappearance. There were talks, demonstrations, requests for justice. In this context, the Abriendo Caminos student force denounced that the Faculty had a cooperation agreement with the multinational, which in Argentina operates under the legal status ofCompany ofLands of the South Argentino (CTSA) and has seven farms, 900 thousand hectares distributed in four provinces (Buenos Aires, Río Negro, Chubut and Santa Cruz). Benetton is the largest private owner in Argentina.

MU agreed to the contract last December. “Specific technical assistance agreement between Compañía de Tierras Sud Argentino S.A. and the Faculty of Agronomy of the University of Buenos Aires ”, is the formal title of record, of six pages, signed by Diego Eduardo Perazzo (director of the company) and the dean Rodolfo Golluscio. The first clause establishes the objective of the contract: “It is planned to carry out a systematic evaluation of the availability of forage resources throughout the year and propose a management plan for grazing Patagonian grasslands (…) It will seek to improve the quantity and the quality of livestock production ”. It specifies that “the evaluation of resources will be based on the processing of digital images provided by different types of satellites”.

It specifies that the final products will be three reports with the description of the "state of the resources and details of the management plan" that will be delivered after the three visits to the Benetton fields (estimated months of January, April and September).

The second point indicates that the Faculty will provide training to company personnel and contemplates the possibility of internships with undergraduate and graduate students. The third clause indicates that the technical manager of the project is the same dean of Fauba, Rodolfo Golluscio, "who must deliver a final report of activities and results."

The company paid 96,000 pesos in three installments of 32,000. Fauba authorities argue that the low amounts (96,000 pesos) would be proof that the agreements do not condition the Faculty. But other sectors interpret it in the opposite way: even for little money they allow themselves to be conditioned. The bottom line is the public university and its relationship with the private sector. And an objective fact: working together with a multinational company denounced for violating indigenous rights.

The contract with Benetton was highly questioned by the Abriendo Caminos student group, also (although more diplomatically) by the Broad Front for a New Agronomy (FANA).

Academic resistance:

The Study and Work Group with the Qom communities (GET-Qom) of Fauba, made up of teachers and students from the Faculty, formally requested in February the suspension of the agreement between the Faculty and Benetton. The GET-Qom has been working for years with the Potae Napocna Navogoh (La Primavera) community in Formosa.

In a letter addressed to Dean Rodolfo Golluscio, they questioned that “the agreements between Fauba and the CTSA of the Benetton group are developed without any type of historical, social or political questioning, reproducing an uncritical training of their undergraduate and graduate students on the scope of of the actions, investigations and publications that are generated, thus endorsing a history of genocide, dispossession and injustice that continues over time ”.

The rescission request was based on historical-political grounds regarding the dispossession of the Mapuche territory. They cite the investigation of the historian Ramón Minieri (book “Ese ajeno sur”) where he provides evidence of the illegitimacy of the original title to these lands (acquired in 1991 by Benetton).

They also recall the validity of legislation that should protect indigenous peoples. From the National Constitution (article 75, paragraph 17), to Law 26160 (brake on evictions) and ILO Convention 169.

“The Fauba-Benetton agreements imply ignorance of the historical antecedents and the existing legislation, thereby violating the rights of indigenous peoples regarding access to ancestral territories and their natural resources, as well as the right to consultation and prior, free and informed consent. In such a way that one is a voluntary or involuntary participant in the disintegration of an original people, in the loss of their territories, their culture, their language and their ancestral practices, making it difficult to reproduce their daily life ”, highlights the presented writing before the UBA authorities.

The members of the GET-Qom affirmed that the public university's mission and obligation is that the fruits of its research and extension are, first of all, at the service of the most vulnerable and excluded sectors, such as indigenous peoples and small peasants, and not at the service of large companies that violate the rights of the popular sectors of the countryside.

They appreciated that during the Golluscio administration, the work of teachers was supported together with indigenous and peasant communities, and for that same reason they considered the need for Fauba not to work together with Benetton and other companies denounced for the violation of indigenous rights.

The four-page letter ended: “We request that the agreement with the CTSA (Benetton) be immediately terminated and no new agreements or ties be established as long as the causes underlying the current request are maintained. We do so with the conviction that this action will be a valuable contribution on the road to repairing so many years of injustice, dispossession and the invisibility of indigenous peoples ”.

The debate:

The Board of Directors issued two opinions. One of the majority, presented by the management professors councilors (headed by Golluscio) who proposed to renew the agreement. Another, minority, presented by counselors representing graduates (from the list called "Integration") and asked for termination.

Out of sixteen members, only three votes favored the cancellation of the contract (graduate and student counselors -for FANA-).

The GET-Qom already considered it a triumph that Fauba debated, for the first time, the actions of a company denounced by indigenous peoples. And they began to look for extra university support. Entities that work together with indigenous peoples, researchers and human rights organizations immediately joined: Association of Indigenous Law Attorneys (AADI), Group of Legal Support for Access to Land (Gajat), Group of Philosophy of Biology (UBA). ) and the Institute of Anthropological Sciences (Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the UBA), among others.

The treatment of the agreement in the Fauba Board of Directors began to make more and more noise. The sessions are open and the critics promised to fill the room. Two accessions ended up tipping the balance: the Nobel Peace Prize and Serpaj holder, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, sent a letter requesting the suspension of the agreement. And, on the last day, Verónica Heredia (the Maldonado family's lawyer) advised that Sergio (Santiago's brother) also supported the request to cancel the agreement.

Tuesday June 5 was the day of sessions. The new dean, Marcela Gally, reported the situation and, on tables, presented a third opinion. He raised a pro-business rationale: "The academic value of the agreement has been extremely valuable from the point of view of generating scientific knowledge, as well as in the training of human resources." He defended the work alongside Benetton.

The opinion of the dean excused the Faculty in its actions, but also requested the non-renewal of the contract.

It was voted unanimously (the GET-Qom Group rejected the grounds).

Pro-Company:

-The outgoing dean and technical manager of the agreement, Rodolfo Golluscio, acknowledged that he had already made progress in renewing the contract (even knowing that it had to be approved by the Board of Directors). He regretted that the cancellation had been voted and asked that the decision not be publicized.

-The student advisor for the Independent Agronomy Line (LAI, from the right) angrily questioned that society thinks about the actions of the Faculty and, angrier still, rejected that the public university make decisions based on what happens outside the university island.

-The vice dean, Adriana Kantolic, spoke out against the cancellation of the agreement. He even accused the applicants of having misrepresented information to obtain the support of Pérez Esquivel and indigenous organizations. Kantolic, a defender of the transgenic model, is the technical manager of other agreements with companies, including the questioned Monsanto.

Little big win:

Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Aapresid and the Asociación de Semilleros Argentinos (ASA) are some of the agribusiness companies that have agreements (and financing) with the Faculty of Agronomy of the University of Buenos Aires (Fauba), as revealed in different notes in the magazineMU. The companies promote a model with environmental, social and health consequences. Since the Higher Education Law, enacted during the Menem, public education has been permeable to the private sector.

The cancellation of the agreement with Benetton is unprecedented in Fauba. It is a triumph for teachers, graduates and students, who also question the Faculty's links with transgender companies, thus putting a brake on pro-business authorities and teachers.

Source: La Vaca.org

Video: University Of Buenos Aires (October 2020).