Argentina: President keeps Wichí waiting, then won't see them

December 23, 2005

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For the second time in fifteen days ten Wichí representatives made the long and costly journey from their lands in northern Argentina to the capital to meet President Kirchner. Once again, the promised meeting did not materialise.

The Wichí had originally asked for a meeting to press their long-standing claim for the protection of what remains of their ancestral lands. The government of the province of Salta, where the Indians live, is forcing through a scheme to split up their land between the individual Indian villages and the settlers who have occupied the most fertile areas over the last century. The Wichí believe that the federal government, as a signatory to international conventions recognising Indian land rights, has a responsibility to ensure that their lands are properly protected.

After waiting for four days in the capital, the Wichí were finally told that the long-awaited meeting would not take place. The Wichí are used to waiting: they were originally promised their land in 1991.