October 1, 1997
On June 18, 1997, the Kolla people of Northern Argentina publicly denounced that since December of 1996, the Seaboard Corporation has continued to violate their rights and threaten their very existence. The Kollas are a semi-nomadic group of indigenous people who have inhabited an area of the Salta province since long before Argentina was a country. They are one of the last surviving groups of indigenous people in Argentina. In 1986, after a long civil rights battle with the government, the Kollas finally won legal rights to their ancestral lands.
In 1996, the U.S. based Seaboard Corporation bought the bankrupt company of San Martin of Tabacal in the Salta province. The Seaboard Corporation refused to recognize the land donation belonging to the Kollas. Instead they viewed it as property of its former owners, the Tabacal Corporation. Almost immediately, Tabacal, under the auspices of the Seaboard Corporation, began to exploit the land through logging. Extensive plans have also been made to exploit the area through tourism.
The Seaboard Corporation is based in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. They are a multinational agribusiness spanning the globe, with several operations in the United States as well as in Ecuador, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Honduras, Zaire, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, and Mozambique to name a few. They deal primarily with the production and transport of grains, poultry and pork. They operate under such well-known brand names as Holsum Bakers, Country Hearth and Olympic Kids.
"They are slowly killing us. Littly by little they are tightening the noose around our necks," said Eusebio Condori, a spokesperson for the Kolla community. "They are leaving us orphans without land, and without land we will simply disappear."
Aside from robbing the Kollas of their land, the Seaboard Corporation has successfully launched a campaign of terror including theft, total destruction of property and death threats. Seaboard has destroyed the community's only stone mill and even succeeded in attacking the community with rubber bullets and tear gas by means of the police in June of 1997.
In addition to threatening the cultural survival of the Kollas, Seaboard's intrusion in the area also threatens a fragile ecosystem and one of Argentina's most endangered forests. The reckless means by which Seaboard has begun to log the area has already caused dangerous amounts of erosion. If Seaboard's operations continue at their current rate, both the forest and the fauna residing within it will be put at great risk. This is particularly important because the region contains some of Argentina's last expanses of native jungle. Even the Argentine government's own Department of Natural Resources and Sustainable Development estimates that the current rate of deforestation will leave the country without native tree species by 2036. Already environmental groups such as Greenpeace have begun campaigns to defend the region.
The Kollas have made extensive efforts to peacefully defend their rights through legal channels. What they ask for is simple. They ask that their rights as Argentines and as indigenous peoples be respected per Article 75 Inc. 17 of the Argentine Constitution. This Article recognizes their ethnic and cultural pre-existance and their right to inhabit their ancestral lands.
By taking away the Kolla's land, their very existence as a culture is put at tremendous risk. This amounts to genocide.
The Kollas have denounced their situation to various human rights groups, governments, and enviromental groups. In an act of solidarity with the Kolla community, SERPAJ (Servicio Paz y Justicia) and Adolfo Perez Esquivel, SERPAJ director and Nobel Peace Prize winner, have also written several letters to Governor Juan Carlos Romero, the Governor of the Salta province; Dr. Carlos Menem, the president of the Republic of Argentina; Robert S. Hagen, at the Embassy of the United States; and to Jorge A. Pereda, the Director of the National Institute of Indigenous Affairs. Groups of the the Kollas have also made several trips to Buenos Aires where they have had meetings with members of SERPAJ and with other organizations. A member of SERPAJ accompanied a group of Kollas to the United States embassy in early September. SERPAJ is currently helping to give recogition to the plight of the Kollas.
The Kollas' survival hinges on the successful resolution of this conflict. They are a small community of indigenous people forced to take on Seaboard, a powerful multinational corporation. In order for them to triumph, they need assistance and solidarity from the international community. For that reason, SERPAJ asks for your participation in this important campaign by writing to Tabacal Inc. in Argentina and Seaboard's headquarters in Kansas.
Please express your concern over the Kollas plight and urge Seaboard to halt expansion into the Kollas' land. If possible, please send copies of your letters to the Tinkunaku Association (the Kolla community). You can also send letters to Argentine authorities asking them to fullfill the needs of the Kolls.
L.N. ALEM, 986
Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina
9000 West 67th Street (P.O. Box 2972)
Shawnee Mission, KS 66201, USA
Phone: (913) 676-8800 Fax: (913) 676-8872
email: email@example.com-Tinkunaku Association c/ 20 de Febrero 569, (CP 4530) Oran, Prov. de Salta Rep. Argentina Tel/Fax 54-878-22432 - Sr. Presidente de la Republica, Carlos Saul Menem. Fax Secretaria Privada. 54-1-331-5123, Casa de Gobierno, Balcarce 50, Capital Federal, Argentina Gobierno Provincial de Salta: Gobernador Dr. Juan Carlos Romero, Casa de Gobierno, Salta, Provincia de Salta, Argentina. Fax: 54- 87-360.559 y 54-87-360.759 - Jorge. A Pereda, Instituto Nacional de Asuntos Indigenas y Secretaria de Desarrollo Social, c/ Tte Gral. Juan D.Peron, 524, 4to pisom Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina Fax: 54-1- 342.1584, tel/fax 54-1-342.1734
Serpaj has an extensive report about this case, available by email, in SPANISH only, with information about the Kollas, about Seaboard and about Serpaj's solidarity actions.
SERPAJ (Peace and Justice Service), Piedras 730 (CP 1070) Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Phone/fax 54-1-361.5745