In Argentina, the wounds still alive of the natives of Chaco

Their swollen face appeared on “one” of Argentine news sites in early June 2020, in full anti-coronavirus containment. “Stop, please stop (…). She is a minor! “, yells the person who captures, on May 31, 2020, the video quickly went viral. We see police beating young people of the indigenous Qom community, in a street of Fontana, a suburb of Resistencia, capital of the Argentinian province of Chaco (northeast). The beating continues at the neighborhood police station. For several hours, the beatings and racist insults fell on Cristian, Alejandro, Daiana and Rebeca.

The scene, also filmed by the cameras of the police station, shocks all of Argentina. Roberto Valent, UN coordinator in Argentina, and Jan Jarab, representative in South America of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, then claim “With urgency” investigation. President Alberto Fernandez (center left) condemns the violence and recognizes “A debt of democracy” – formula established in Argentina to designate all that the State still owes to the population.

“This is one more case of police violence, but the peculiarity of this case is that it is filmed. The police knew that there were surveillance cameras and did so anyway, this illustrates their feeling of impunity ”, observes, a year and a half later, Kevin Nielsen. Vice-chairman of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (a public and independent body), he supports the family’s efforts to obtain justice and is a civil party.

In a 2016 report titled “Police harassment, violence and arbitrary (actions) in working-class neighborhoods”, the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) already reported on the harassment endured by Qom indigenous youth in the Resistencia region. The fear of arbitrary control during their movements assigns them, in fact, to residence in their neighborhood, noted the report, which noted “A high degree of frustration among the inhabitants of this community”.

“Second-class citizens”

According to the last census, dating from 2010, more than 955,000 people consider themselves indigenous or descendants of these populations in Argentina (for a population of 45 million inhabitants), covering thirty-one groups in total, including the Qom. In the province of Chaco, 4% of the population is indigenous.

“The myth of Argentina’s origins overestimates the European component. The indigenous populations were pre-existing to the arrival of Europeans and were historically treated as second-class citizens, to which is added structural poverty, notes Pablo Wright, anthropologist at the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (Conicet). Police violence is only one aspect of this discrimination that the political agenda does not take into account. »

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In Argentina, the wounds still alive of the natives of Chaco