Andalgalá, in Catamarca, Argentina, has for years been the epicenter of one of the greatest resistance to open-pit mega-mining in that country, together with the provinces of Chubut and Mendoza. The opposition is focused against the Bajo de la Alumbrera mine and the planned Agua Rica and Pilciao mines. The main demand is the defense of the water and the land, as both are profusely polluted when extracting and pulverizing the rock, releasing many highly polluting and harmful heavy metals.
As we have already reported in this media, as a result of this resistance, the Deliberating Council of Andalgalá banned mining in all its forms in the Andalgalá river basin, a decision that higher authorities have tried to invalidate in order to favor business interests.
In recent months anti-mining activists together with the affected community of Choya, organized in the El Algarrobo Assembly, began a permanent camp against the MARA (Minera Agua Rica-Alumbrera) mining project. This project is promoted by the Canadian transnational Yamana Gold. The camp is located at one of the access points to the mining project. The mining activity has been guarded by the Catamarca police, a fact that ratifies the collusion of the institutions with business interests. This camp has suffered strong repression, as at the beginning of May when the police attacked them, injuring several members and detaining one of the neighbors, and on May 20 when they were again attacked by riot police.
A few days ago the police arrested two members of the encampment on charges made-up by the mining company. One of the accused, Aldo Flores, is one of the founders of the El Algarrobo Assembly. Flores, who is over seventy years old, suffered a heart attack during the interrogation due to the stress of his unjust persecution and detention. He was taken to the hospital.
The other activist, Enzo Brizuela, was detained without being allowed to communicate with colleagues or the press. For this reason he went on a dry hunger strike. The detainees have denounced having suffered «numerous irregularities and human rights violations» and have held Prosecutor Camps and Dr. Lorena Gutiérrez, as well as Dr. Passarelli, responsible for these abuses. The latter refused to treat Enzo Brizuela because of her rejection of his struggle, despite the fact that he had suffered mistreatment at the hands of the police and an acute respiratory condition. This doctor has already been denounced for refusing to report the injuries suffered by another Algarrobo colleague unjustly detained by the police last year.
The judge of control of guarantees confirmed the detention of Enzo Brizuela. In a note shared by the Assembly, the activist says he is «determined to continue the dry hunger strike that I began yesterday when my detention was confirmed, and I will sustain it until the ideological persecution that weighs on me and my comrades in struggle ceases. Until they free not only me, but also my hill, our hill. Nobody surrenders here! I continue to defend the life and water of my people!»
Enzo’s defense lawyers requested the nullity of the process, since he had been assigned as defense lawyer to the complainant’s lawyer. The Assembly describes the whole case as «A DISASTER WITHOUT PRECEDENT».
As the El Algarrobo Assembly itself explains, its purpose is «to defend water and territory against mega-mining». It was founded on December 14, 2009 in response to fierce police repression against demonstrations in opposition to mega-mining in the area. The Assembly initiated the organization of Walks for Life, in defense of water for the population and rejecting pollution from mega-mining. These have been carried out uninterruptedly since then, for 13 years, every Saturday, making a total of 643. Aldo Flores has walked all of them, all 643, and will continue to do so once he’s released until this project is paralyzed.
From Euskal Herria our solidarity with the Assembly El Algarrobo and the detainees and our wishes that they are released quickly.