Dec 5 Letter from Communities in Argentina to President Faust

Scroll down to see a translated version of this letter.Dec 5 Letter, Spanish, Page 1

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English Version:

Corrientes Capital, December 5, 2013

Dear Harvard University President Drew Faust:

We write to you on behalf of the communities affected by your plantations in the Department of San Miguel.

We want to point out that it has been almost two months since the Oakland Institute and the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition released a report documenting the impacts that your companies generate in our communities.

At that same time, a group of students who are in solidarity with our struggle delivered to you a letter with three main points:

  • The request to stop expanding your plantations until you have completed an environmental and social impact study. This study should be cumulative, cooperative and inclusive of damages that have already been generated.

  • That timber plantations be moved immediately to a minimum distance of 2000 meters from our communities.

  • That you comply with all legally required employment practices for your workers in Corrientes.

But instead of siting down to discuss our demands and find a solution to this conflict, your companies have resorted to intimidation and scare tactics.

Mrs. Drew Faust, we have no idea how you resolve conflicts in the United States. But here, we don’t want your managers to seek us out, one by one, and pressure us in an attempt to make us abandon our struggle. We will not accept the recurrence of mysterious situations, such as being followed on the streets and seeing your company’s vehicles crash into our neighbor’s trucks.

What we want is for you to start an open dialogue with everyone who signed the letter you received almost two months ago.

We are only workers, farmers, citizens, students, and common folk, but we do not eat wood. We are not fools. Your people have met with the the Provincial Government to determine how to deal with this conflict, and there are pictures out in the open to prove it.

If there is no dialogue about how to implement our requests, we will make you personally responsible for any situation where our lands are involved and our physical or moral integrity is in jeopardy. You have been made aware of our situation. It depends on you to bring forth dialogue and disarm the conflict. We are a peaceful people, but we will not be stepped on.

We hope to hear back from you soon.

Residents of the Department of San Miguel, Corrientes Province of Argentina

 

More press coverage in Argentina

Full version here: http://www.corrienteshoy.com/vernota.asp?id_noticia=149965#.UqjmtWRDt2R

Small producers of San Miguel demand that Harvard halt its operations in the Iberá Wetlands

On Thursday, a group of small producers in San Miguel asked for the timber plantations owned by Harvard University President Drew Faust in the Iberá Wetlands to stop expanding. At the same time, they reiterated their demand that the Institute of Rural Development (San Nicolás Foundation) should remain in the hands of the producers of the communities of San Miguel and Loreto.

 

 

A group of farmers and environmental activists delivered a petition with their demands to government officials this morning.

Members of environmental organizations Ysyry San Miguel and Guardians of Ibera, accompanied the claims of residents of San Miguel, Loreto, Chavarria.

At the protest, they denounced the advance of the extractive timber plantation model and the hostile acquisition of territory.

Harvard University owns approximately 86,000 hectares in the departments of San Miguel, Concepción and Chavarria, which are dedicated to monoculture pine and eucalyptus plantations.

“This advance of an extractive business model creates serious environmental and community harm, with irreparable consequences. It’s also causing forced migration from the rural communities, fails to create employment, and increases the rate of poverty in one of the poorest provinces of the country,” they said.

Harvard students have recently released a report critical of what their own university has done with their land.

The conflict has also led to the loss of 3000 hectares of land belonging to the San Nicolás Foundation, which was a grant of land awarded to those who had none and wanted to work it for subsistence use.

“We demand respect for our rights to live in a healthy environment and have decent jobs, as well as for our own self-determination and respect for the will of our people,” the protestors said.

PRESS ADVISORY: Students to deliver letter from Argentine farmers to Harvard President

Cambridge, MA—At 1PM tomorrow, December 10, a group of students from the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition will rally in front of Massachusetts Hall in Harvard Yard in support of Argentine farmers.

They plan to deliver a letter from those farmers to Harvard University President Drew Faust. Harvard owns two industrial timber plantations in the Corrientes province of Argentina that have degraded the Iberá Wetlands ecosystem and endangered thousands of small-hold farmers in the region.

Last Thursday, community organizers rallied in the provincial capital of Corrientes against the expansion of Harvard’s timber plantations. Holding signs that said “STOP HARVARD,” they marched to the offices of Harvard’s two timber companies in Corrientes, EVASA and Las Misiones.

RI at Harvard and the Oakland Institute released a report revealing that industrial timber plantations owned by Harvard University the productivity of surrounding farms, create public health problems, and cause damage to public roads. Since it purchased EVASA and Las Misiones in 2007, Harvard has rapidly expanded the plantations into protected wetland and surrounding communities. The two companies are worth $55.2 million and own 217,166 acres of land.

Harvard has not yet responded to the allegations in the report or to demands by students and farmers to halt expansion of plantations, remove trees within 2000 meters of homes, and improve labor conditions.

ACTION ALERT: Argentine communities rally

Facing intimidation, Argentine communities and students continue demanding
Harvard University halt timber plantation expansion in protected wetlands
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On Thursday, December 5 at 9am, community organizations in rural Argentina began protesting the expansion of Harvard University’s timber plantations into the world’s second largest wetlands, Esteros del Iberá, and the endangerment of the rights and livelihoods of nearby communities.

The action follows the October release of a report by the student-led Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition and the California-based Oakland Institute titled, “Harvard in Iberá,” detailing the impact of Harvard’s investments in Corrientes, Argentina, where the University fully owns and operates two timber companies, EVASA and Las Misiones, valued at $55.2 million.

Grounded in interviews with local residents, the report concluded that the plantations interfere with local land use, damage the local roads and water supply, cause long-term soil degradation, and pose public health risks. Scientists cited in the report point to mounting ecosystem damage and encroachment into Esteros del Iberá, the protected wetlands bordering the plantations.

News of these destructive practices was widely reported in BloombergBusinessWeek and Argentina’s two leading newspapers, Clarín and La Nación. Under mounting pressure, Harvard’s companies have attempted to intimidate vocal community members.

Your support is urgently needed to halt these intimidation tactics and meet the demands of Corrientes community members to:

1)        Stop expanding the plantations until completing a participatory study of their environmental and community impacts;
2)        Remove all plantations within 2,000 meters from our communities; and
3)        Comply with all legally required employment practices.

These demands are endorsed by La Asociación Departamental de Pequeñas Productores de San Miguel; Organización Ambientalista Guardianes del Ibera; Iglesia Católica de San Miguel; Foro de Organizaciones de Agricultura Familiar; Escuela de Familia Agrícola Ñande Roga (Nuestra Casa); Grupo Ecologista Y Syry (Agua Que Corre), San Miguel; Grupo Mbarete (Fuerte), Chavarria

Help us stop this intimidation and plantation expansion

Guardianes del Iberá
Website: www.salvemosalibera.org/blog/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/guardianesibera
Twitter: www.twitter.com/salvemosalibera
Email: corrientes@responsibleharvard.com

NEWS: Deputies request that the ICAA investigate Harvard’s property in the Iberá Wetlands

News from Radio Sudamericana:

Deputies request that the ICAA investigate Harvard’s property in the Iberá Wetlands

A resolution officially requests that the Corrientes Institute of Water and Environment (ICAA – Instituto Correntino del Agua y del Ambiente) issue a report on the environmental degradation being caused by pine and eucalyptus plantations owned by Harvard University in the Iberá Wetlands.

 

Corrientes Deputy Manuel Sussini, from the political party Compromiso Correntino, suggested the initiative after a report was published in a national newspaper on October 27. Sussini made the proposal following protests by Harvard students, alumni, and professors. The draft will be considered during the 22nd session of the Chamber of Deputies.

According to a student-written report, Harvard owns more than 87,000 hectares of land in the Corrientes province. Two companies, Las Misiones and EVASA, manage industrial pine and eucalyptus plantations on the land for the university. The plantations generate profits from the sale of lumber, which help finance the university’s research and education activities.

The university is in charge of a $32 billion endowment, which is invested by the Harvard Management Company (HMC). In recent years, HMC paid $55.2 million for both local companies. The Pérez Companc family owned Las Misiones until 2002, when an American-citizen, Douglas Tompkins, bought it. Harvard then purchased the company through an intermediary investment fund, and it currently owns 100% of both companies’ shares.

According to the student-written study, Harvard has expanded its plantations into the Iberá Provincial Nature Reserve into areas where it should not be permitted and into nearby community lands. Additionally, the study noted that the plantations have reduced biodiversity, changed birds’ migratory patterns, and led to the loss of many plant species. Many of these environmental changes are caused by the trees’ intense consumption of water, which causes surrounding wetlands to disappear. The roads carrying lumber out of the fields also damage the roads.

Original Post: http://www.corrientes24hs.com.ar/?p=7035