Greenpeace activists stopping bulldozers in Salta
Greenpeace has accused Alejandro
Jaime Braun Peña, a politically-connected businessman, of illegally clearing a
native forest in the province of Salta for soy cultivation.
Braun Peña’s Cuchuy farm has deforested more
than 400 hectares since early December. In total, over 5,000 hectares have been
cleared since 2014.
Salta’s provincial government had previously placed the
forest in question under categories of its Native Forests Territorial Registry
that ban deforestation. The forest is also protected by Argentina’s National
However, Salta’s governor, Juan Manuel Urtubey, is reported to
have reclassified 8,962 ha of the area to allow deforestation. According to
Greenpeace, the governor’s decision, which is illegal under the National Forest
Law, followed a request made by Braun Peña.
Despite this reclassification of the area by the provincial
government, it continues to be protected by
other articles of the National Forest Law, as well as the Indigenous
Territories Emergency Law.
The Cuchuy farm is located in the San Martín department, 70
kilometres from the city of Tartagal. The area is home to the Wichi indigenous
people. Greenpeace has warned that
four Wichi communities – Cuchuy, San José, Corralito and Chaguaral – could be
illegally displaced and have their livelihoods and sacred places affected by
the farm’s activities. Since 2012, the Wichi have denounced being
placed under pressure by farmers to agree to deforestation in the area.
Hernán Giardini, of Greenpeace Argentina, said: “These
forests, in addition to their enormous biodiversity, are the home, warehouse
and pharmacy of indigenous communities. It is a crime to destroy them”. He added:
“when it comes to forests there is a kind of illegal collusion between the
provincial government and businessmen […] who are relatives of officials at the
Braun Peña has said that
his farm’s activities have been authorised by
Salta’s government and comply with municipal, provincial and national laws. The
provincial government has also stated that
land-use changes at Cuchuy are in compliance with national environmental
legislation. In response,
Greenpeace has reiterated that deforestation at Cuchuy is illegal under Article
14 of the National Forest Law.
According to the organisation, Braun Peña is a cousin of the
federal government’s chief of staff and a director in
several businesses belonging to the family of Argentina’s president.
Salta’s governor has been accused of
illegally authorising the deforestation of 144,984 hectares of protected
forests in the province.