Neuquén: Mapuche Protesters Occupy Oil Wells to Block YPF-Chevron Deal

by Alison Depsky, 16 July 2013.

YPF station in Vaca Muerta, Neuquén (photo: Foto: Pepe Delloro/Télam/aa)
YPF station in Vaca Muerta, Neuquén (photo: Foto: Pepe Delloro/Télam/aa)

Around 120 members of the indigenous Mapuche community have been occupying two oil well shafts in Campo Marité since 7am this morning to protest Chevron’s planned development of Vaca Muerta, an area in the southern province of Neuquén.

This past May, state oil company YPF and Chevron signed an agreement about the terms and commercial conditions to develop Vaca Muerta, a deal that is to be finalised today.

“We are rejecting this deal and protesting against hydrofracking,” said Leftxaru Nahuel, representative of the Mapuche Nation. “We want to respect free will, which is a constitutional right, and the environmental report.  This activity is highly polluting.”

The protestors include members of the Confederation Mapuche of Neuquén, neighbours of the Añelo area and activists of social organisations.

“We choose this place because this is where the president gave her teleconference. Its symbolic,” reported Nahuel.

Nahuel warned that the environmental impact of this project is “going to condemn to death” the families that live in the territory. “This is historically Mapuche community territory, because the families here have been here since before the state of Argentina existed,” he added.

“The are not treating the waste. In Neuquén there is not sufficient infrastructure. For this we reject the deal with the company sanctioned by justice, since it is Chevron, for what they did in Ecuador.”

The push and pull with Chevron in Argentina has been on going throughout Latin America following an intense struggle over deadly pollution in Ecuador between indigenous Cofán community and Texaco (now a subsidiary of Chevron). The community was legally awarded US$18bn in damages but have not been able to enforce the decision.

In 2012, an Argentine judge imposed an embargo on Chevron’s operations in Argentina, which was later reversed by the Supreme Court, making way for the deal between YPF and Chevron that was signed on May 15th, and guaranteed that Chevron would receive 50% of the future profits.

Chevron plans to invest US$1.5 million in the first development projects of unconventional oil in Vaca Muerta, in the areas of Loma La Lata Norte and Loma Campana, in Neuquén.

Local leader Albino Campos, told a press conference on 11th July that close to 600 wells are already in operation, most between two and 10 kilometers from residential homes. “These places are also fields for grazing,” he said. “We no longer want to pay the price of this development, which promotes unlimited growth, without regard for the nature and culture … that continues destroying biodiversity, polluting the air, the water, the lakes…It’s surprising that the nation and the province should open the doors to a company that is known on a global level for contamination and extortion.”

Nahuel says that said more people are going to join the occupation; and that the protesters plan to stay for an indeterminate amount of time, or until they get a response from the authorities.

Source: The Argentina Independent

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