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Letter to President Faust from Department of San Miguel

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

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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

 

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

Government to inspect Harvard’s plantations in the Iberá Wetlands

According to media reports, the Department of Natural Resources in Corrientes, Argentina is preparing inspections of Harvard’s plantations in the Iberá Wetlands in response to protests in Argentina and the United States.

Government to inspect Harvard’s plantations in the Iberá Wetlands

(November 9, 2013)

The Provincial Department of Natural Resources announced that it will send inspectors to Harvard’s plantations in the Iberá Wetlands. According to environmental organizations, the university owns pine plantations that are negatively impacting the wetland’s ecosystem.

The Director of the Department of Parks and Reserves José Alberto Meabe said, “If there are any corrections to be made, they will take place”. He siad that his department is conducting the inspections to determine exactly what the situation is, according to the Momarandú newspaper.

Meabe referred to protests by American students and local environmentalists regarding Harvard’s companies in the Iberá Wetlands. In this regard, he said: “I’m aware there was a report released by students based on field research, and I’m familiar with the press coverage.”

Inspeccionarían campos de Harvard en el Iberá

(November 9, 2013)

Desde la Dirección de Reservas Naturales de la Provincia anunciaron que enviaran una inspección a campos en la zona de los Esteros del Iberá que pertenecerían a la universidad estadounidense de Harvard, cuyas plantaciones de pino ocasionarían impacto en el medio ambiente según denunciaron algunas entidades ecologistas.

En tanto que el titular del área dejo entrever que de ser necesario se harán las intervenciones y correcciones que sean pertinentes. El director de Parques y Reservas de la Provincia, José Alberto Meabe, dijo que “si hay que corregir cosas, se corregirán”. A la vez que indico que el organismo que encabeza prepara visitas de inspección para determinar exactamente cual es la situación, según informo Momarandú.

En contacto con el mencionado medio, el funcionario se refirió a la denuncia de estudiantes estadounidenses y ambientalistas locales sobre la presunta actuación de la Universidad de Harvard a través de empresas de su propiedad en el Iberá. En tal sentido, dijo: “Conozco que hay un informe realizado por los alumnos que han estado recibiendo información en la zona y lo que la prensa reflejo del hecho”.

More news coverage in Argentina

Another major Argentine newspaper—La Nacion—wrote a story about the campaign for justice at Harvard’s timber plantations in the Iberá Wetlands.

A translated version appears below, and the original Spanish version can be found here.

Harvard students protest in defense of the Iberá Wetlands

Written by Laura Rocha (La Nacion); Translated by Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition

The Iberá Wetlands in Corrientes are in the news again this week: A report on plantations owned by Harvard University denounced the school’s unsustainable business practices in this national treasure.

“The report’s findings contradict recent statements by Harvard’s president, Drew Faust about the university’s investment practices. Two weeks ago, she wrote of Harvard’s “commitment to sustainable investment” and its “distinctive responsibilities to society,'” said Sam Wohns, a Harvard College senior and a member of the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition. The Coalition co-published the report with The Oakland Institute, a public policy group in California.

The Harvard Management Company (HMC) manages the university’s $32 billion endowment fund. In recent years, much of that money has been invested in natural resources. There is a long list of countries in which there are active investments: from the Cayman Islands to New Zealand, and most of South America.

“When I saw how the plantations had invaded the wetlands, I felt sick to my stomach” said Sam Wohns, the report’s author. “As a Harvard student, I should not be benefiting from environmental destruction in Argentina.”

The forestry companies in Corrientes, Argentina—EVASA and Las Misiones—are together valued at $55.2 million and cover 217,166 acres. Since the university bought the companies in 2007, it has rapidly expanded the plantations into protected areas, and even into nearby communities.

According to residents of local communities quoted in the report, the plantations reduce their fields’ productivity, create health problems, and damage public roads.

“Harvard’s plantations are destroying our way of life,” said Adrián Obregón, a member of the Association of Small Producers in San Miguel, an organization of small farmers living near Harvard’s plantations. “We want to stop Harvard’s expansion of their plantations within our communities.”

Despite their negative impacts, most of the plantations are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for sustainable management practices. But according to the FSC audits, Harvard has failed to fully implement responsible practices.

Official representatives from Harvard said that all regulations are being complied with and that the Argentine government has not filed any complaints.

Today, about 40 students from Harvard gathered to demonstrate against the expansion of timber plantations in the second largest region of wetlands in the world, the Iberá Wetlands in northern Argentina.

During the protest, the students delivered a letter to President Faust, which was written by farmers whose lives have been threatened by the plantations owned by Harvard. The letter demanded that the university stop the expansion of plantations in the region and deal with the concerns that have been raised in the surrounding communities.

“Faust is responsible for this university’s conduct and these plantations are no exception,” said Gabriel Bayard, a Harvard student who has visited the plantations in Argentina. “The blatant disregard for Harvard’s values is shocking. I hope that the university stops the expansion of these plantations immediately. ”

Media Advisory: Harvard Students Demand Answers in Ongoing Chilean Investment Scandal

MEDIA ADVISORY

Date: May 8, 2013

ContactAlexi White (617-413-5972, alexi_white@hks13.harvard.edu)

Cambridge, MA—In response to Harvard’s evasive response to the Chilean government’s lawsuit against university-owned Agrícola Brinzal, students will rally on the steps of Widener Library to demand answers from the Harvard administration.

Who: Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition; Responsible Endowments Coalition; Francisco Meneses, a Chilean student at Harvard’s Kennedy School

What: Rally demanding answers from Drew Faust, the President of Harvard University, regarding Chilean government lawsuit

When: Thursday, May 9 at 1:00 PM

Where: Steps of Widener Library in Harvard Yard

Background Information:

Chilean Court Case

A report from Chile’s Center for Investigative Journalism (CIPER) describes how the company has cleared large swaths of native forest and reforested with eucalyptus trees. The Ministry of Agriculture’s National Forestry Corporation has brought multiple lawsuits against Agrícola Brinzal for its illegal deforestation and reforestation practices. The company’s logging practices are not only illegal, they are also environmentally damaging to Chile’s forests and the local farming community.

Harvard’s Ownership

Harvard owns 99.99% of Agrícola Brinzal through a wholly-owned subsidiary called the Phemus Corporation, which enjoys nonprofit tax status. According to Harvard’s tax filings, in 2010 the company generated more than half a million dollars in income for the Harvard endowment. This money was used to employ professors, fund scholarships, and otherwise support Harvard’s mission. This includes the Harvard Forest, a research center where experts investigate the destructive effects that habitat degradation and development can have on the environment and local communities.

Students Demand Answers

One week ago, on April 26th at 1pm, 35 students hand-delivered an invitation to President Faust’s office to explain Harvard’s investment in Agrícola Brinzal and demanding a plan to make investments more responsible.

The outcry from Harvard students and Chilean citizens comes after a series of ethically dubious investments from the Harvard Management Company. A growing group of students, faculty and staff are pressuring the university to change its investment principles. In April, 45 students gathered from across six graduate schools and the College to plan for future campaigns.

Summary of April 30 event at Harvard Club of San Francisco

On April 30, 2013, the Harvard Club of San Francisco hosted an event on Sustainable and Responsible Investing to raise the level of understanding of this topic and to create awareness of the efforts of the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition.

Nina Gardner A.B.’82, member of the Advisory Board of RI@H moderated the panel consisting of Patricia Farrar-Rivas, CEO Veris Wealth Partners and Jean Rogers, Founder and ED of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board. Forty members and friends attended, expressing great interest during an extended question and answer session.

The event was organized by Helene Marsh, A.B. ’82, who also serves on the Advisory Board of RI@H.

 

The panelists and moderate pose for a photo after the event (left to right: Patricia Farrar-Rivas, Jean Rogers, and Nina Gardner):

photo (70)

Press Release: Harvard-Owned Company Sued for Illegal Logging – Students Want Answers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday 26th April 2013

Harvard-Owned Company Sued for Illegal Logging – Students Want Answers

Students push Harvard administration to sign up to principles of responsible investment as Harvard-owned logging company is sued in Chile.
Contact: Lindsey Claus at (774)-266-4378 or lindseyclaus@college.harvard.edu

CAMBRIDGE, MA – At 1pm today, 30 students hand-delivered an invitation to President Faust’s office to attend a meeting to explain Harvard’s investment in Agrícola Brinzal and to demand a plan to make investments more responsible.

The Harvard-owned logging company is being sued by the Chilean government for illegally clearing swaths of land and reforesting it with eucalyptus trees, damaging the environment and local communities.

The outcry from Harvard students and Chilean citizens comes after a series of ethically dubious investments from the Harvard Management Company. A growing group of students, faculty and staff are pressuring the university to change its investment principles. Last week, 45 students gathered from across six graduate schools and the College to plan for future campaigns.

College student Sandra Korn said,

“Because Harvard refuses to release information about its investments – we don’t know if this activity is unusual or just one of many Harvard-owned companies that is breaking the law.

Unless we ensure responsible investment principles for our $32 billion endowment – Harvard’s direct holdings could be damaging the environment and people around the world.”

Harvard owns at least another 11 companies in Chile, and more than 100 throughout the world.

Chilean student Francisco Meneses, who led the delegation to President Faust said,

“We are proud of the high environmental standards that we have on campus – they are an expression of Harvard’s values. So why should that be any different for our investments?”

Students have demanded a response from President Faust by May 8th at 9am.

 

Background Information

Chilean Court Case

A report from Chile’s Center for Investigative Journalism (CIPER) describes how the company has cleared large swaths of native forest and reforested with eucalyptus trees. The Ministry of Agriculture’s National Forestry Corporation has brought multiple lawsuits against Agrícola Brinzal for its illegal deforestation and reforestation practices. The company’s logging practices are not only illegal, they are also environmentally damaging to Chile’s forests and the local farming community.

Harvard’s Ownership

Harvard owns 99.99% of Agrícola Brinzal through a wholly-owned subsidiary called the Phemus Corporation, which enjoys nonprofit tax status. According to Harvard’s tax filings, in 2010 the company generated more than half a million dollars in income for the Harvard endowment. This money was used to employ professors, fund scholarships, and otherwise support Harvard’s mission. This includes the Harvard Forest, a research center where experts investigate the destructive effects that habitat degradation and development can have on the environment and local communities.

Additional Troubling Investments: Harvard-Owned Hotel Abuses Workers

Workers at the Hilton-managed DoubleTree Hotel in Allston, 15 minutes from Harvard’s main campus, have accused the hotel management of disregarding their grievances and neglecting important worker protection standards. On March 12, over 60 workers, students, and community members petitioned the hotel’s management to give the employees a fair process to decide on unionization.

Further Information:

  1. Harvard’s Tax Filing: http://ciperchile.cl/pdfs/03-2013/harvard/Tax_President_Fellows.pdf

  2. Report published by Chile’s Center of Investigative Journalism (Spanish): http://ciperchile.cl/2013/03/06/empresa-de-la-universidad-de-harvard-es-procesada-por-tala-ilegal-de-bosque-nativo-en-chiloe/

  3. English Translation of the report above: http://www.ilovechile.cl/2013/03/20/harvard-university-companies-accused-illegal-logging-chilo/83237

  4. Oxfam report on land acquisition by U.S. investors, including Harvard: http://www.oxfamamerica.org/files/us-land-investment.pdf

  5. Crimson Op-Ed regarding the DoubleTree Hotel: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2013/4/19/Harvard-unions-off-campus/

Contact: Lindsey Claus at (774)-266-4378 or lindseyclaus@college.harvard.edu

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