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Mapuche Resist Apache Corporation in Argentina: An Open Letter

We are writing this open letter to express our opinions and criticisms in relation to Apache Corporation's actions in our territory of Comahue, in the north of Argentinean Patagonia. Specifically, the places close to Anticlinal Campamento field, in the Barda Negra area, location Portezuelo Norte in Portezuelo Chico, in NeuquĆ©n province; and close to the EstaciĆ³n Fernadez Oro field in Allen, Rio Negro. Note: Due to some translational errors there were some corrections made in attempts to make the fluidity/clarity of the letter more sound. However, the link to the original letter can be found here.
Open letter to Apache Corporation We are writing this open letter to express our opinions and criticisms in relation to Apache Corporation's actions in our territory of Comahue, in the north of Argentinean Patagonia. Specifically, the places close to Anticlinal Campamento field, in the Barda Negra area, location Portezuelo Norte in Portezuelo Chico, in NeuquĆ©n province; and close to the EstaciĆ³n Fernadez Oro field in Allen, Rio Negro. We write this open letter as human beings, whose bodies are made 75% water and survive, thankfully, because of the act of being able to drink water daily. In the world, tens of thousands of people die every day for drinking water contaminated by bacteria or chemicals. Globally, more than 1,200 million people lack basic water supply. We do not aim to request any remediation, nor to attempt any legal action. We are aware of the fact that Apache Corporation's concessions in our territory have been bought by the subsidiary YSUR, which is accountable to YPF, which in turn is accountable to Chevron. The purpose of this letter is to hold Apache Corporation responsible, historically and ethically, in front of humanity, and nature, which offers us the possibility of living day after day. We would like to have the quality of life we had in our territories before your actions, but we do not want your oil-soaked and blood-stained money! We believe it is important to point out that we hold Apache responsible. We say it without technicalities, the way the people understand it, so that Apache can hear from the people's voices that the whole community knows what Apache does and how it does business. The people affected by its extractive activity are not only indigenous shepherds, and Creole small farmers producing pears, but also all the human beings living thanks to the water from the RĆ­o Negro basin and the Zapala aquifer. Apache has not acted by itself, but with the complicity of: the provincial government of NeuquĆ©n, headed by the governor Jorge Sapag of the Movimiento Popular Neuquino party; and the governor of Rio Negro, Alberto Weretilneck, of the Frente Para la Victoria party. These corrupt politicians have introduced fracking, a highly toxic extractive technique, in the Latin American continent for the first time ever. Apache has carried out these types of practices from just a few miles from the Zapala aquifer, in the Anticlinial Campamento field, within the community territory of the Mapuche people, without abiding by the corresponding procedures of popular consultation stated in ILO'S Convention No. 169, therefore jeopardizing its water quality and allocating millions of gallons of water for hydrofracking. While it tried to "persuade" the community to accept the unconventional extractive regime by means of Corporate Social Responsibility projects, the corporation also aimed to split the community by exerting a constant pressure upon the inhabitants who opposed fracking. Cristina Linkopan's death, logko (chief) of Gelay Ko community, is the tragic ending of this episode of Apache's presence in Barda Negra. Cristina was dead at age 30 from a pulmonary hypertension, probably caused by her constant exposure to hydrocarbons exploited since the last decades. In 2011, when the conflict between Gelay Ko community and Apache was intensified, simultaneously, Cristina's health was destroyed by the careless way of treating the thousands of gallons of contaminated water, as well as the constant pressure and violent repression exerted by Neuquen's local police, who carried out their actions with corporate oil salaries. This cynical ferocity accelerated our sister's death process, leaving four children orphaned in March 14th, 2013. Every year we will commemorate this event with verbalizing the meaning in this tragedy, in spite of our mourning. Her death has been a way of passing on a spiritual legacy for the defense of Mapuche's water, air, land, life and people, and against whoever dare to damage them. Apache's presence has also left a deep mark in Mapuche community of Winkul Newen. On October 15th, 2012, the community reported an oil spill in an Apache corporation's duct, in Portezuelo Norte field. Not only has the demand not been heard, but two months later, on December 28th, by order of judge Ivonne San Martin (well-known for her usual rulings against the Mapuche people), a Judicial Power's assistant, together with the police and some of Apache corporation's high officers, came to the community's territory in order to allow the company to reactivate ten oil wells. This event ended up with two Mapuche authorities arrested: MartĆ­n Maliqueo, the community's weken, and Mauricio Rain, WiƱoy Folil community's lonko, apart from a teenager of the community being shot, as well as an 83-year-old native female authority being beaten. We know that the authorities in place, and companies such as Apache, will expect these crimes, which have the judicial power, and are enforced by the police, to remain unpunished, but the organizations and movements of the people will raise our voice to reject the historic genocide suffered by the original peoples. Currently, the members of the community still live in the community territory, affected by ten conventional wells and don't have access to water, nor to basic utility services Apart from that they are victims of judicial prosecution due to the events of December 28th, 2012, for defending their homes. Relmu Ƒanuku faces charges of attempted murder, and MartĆ­n Maliqueo for damages. They are both the fathers of three children. Apache is also responsible for this! Houston shows solidarity to those in Argentina by holding a protest outside of the Apache Corporation headquarters on Monday, March 9th. Houston shows solidarity to those in Argentina by holding a protest outside of the Apache Corporation headquarters on Monday, March 9th. To sum up, Apache has never cleaned up the effects of its contamination in this territory, nor ever has it acknowledged the disastrous cultural and environmental impact of its activity on the community, including its children. Apache's exploration and exploitation activities carried out in EstaciĆ³n Fernandez Oro field, in Allen, Rio Negro, have coincided with the end of small and medium local production of pears. The appearance in the town's urban fabric of the so-called "oil farms" has marked the beginning of an unbearable situation. Farms began to be occupied by drilling rigs, by being either rented or purchased. Working the soil of a place such as Alto Valle, transforming it from semi-arid into a fertile soil has demanded the effort of generations since the first half of the 20th century, nonetheless, due to the abundance of gas extraction among the fruit-growing farms, it has all been destroyed in a few years. Both the local administration and company have attempted to lie to our community by stating that no hydrofracking was carried out in Allen. While everyday Allen inhabitants were affected by the gases emanated during the exploitation in wells, without any regard for the countless environmental and social effects, such as the pollution of aquifers and rivers, the shortage of drinking water, the constant noises, even during resting time, the light pollution affecting fruit-tree plantations, the increase of trucks and traffic, the resulting traffic accidents, the high living expenses, the drug and human trafficking, all ever more present in our community. In addition, the negligence in the operation of the EFO field wells, which has led to serious accidents since the exploitation began. One of them took place in the AP.RN.EFO 141 well, at 9 p.m., March 19th, 2014. The explosion was due to a mismanaged maneuver which caused a tremor in nearby homes. 50 meters away from one of the houses, flames and toxic gas emanations took place for hours, leading the neighbors to have to improvise their own contingency plan, given the lack of provision from the company and the control agents. Rural worker don RubĆ©n IbaƱez is one of the main affected since Apache corporation began, more than two years ago, with drilling in the area located only a few meters away from his house. He has publicly expressed his fear for what might happen, "If only they would come here and experience what we and my family are experiencing... stomachaches, headaches, we have to sleep with the windows closed." Officers of the now called YSUR, that still bears the fashion of Apache corporation, which has always watched over its "good public image," have declared there were no more risks for the environment and the inhabitants anymore. In spite of this, the accident stopped activities for 10 days. Don IbaƱez and his family have suffered the consequences of a problem that the public officers and the company still refuse to acknowledge. Once again, they consist of serious pulmonary diseases, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), which continues to mutilate the life of residents. Apache tried that this and other diseases of the local inhabitants remain invisible, in order to avoid its responsibility for the consequences of an extractive activity neither planned nor demanded by the community. Apache is also responsible for this! Another accident took place at 2 a.m. on July 14th, 2014 in the well 236. Apache had already left Argentina but venting issues were still there. This led to a new explosion and a fire in less than six months. This time it made evident the procedures unauthorized by control organisms, such as the use of gas oil in maneuvers, which was discovered to cause pollution of aquifers. In both cases, the events were not kept quiet and an assembly of neighbors raised their voices in defense of their own lives, as they are threatened by these continuous accidents. The people of Allen have never wanted this form of exploitation in their town. The people of Allen rejected in a city ordinance in 2013 in regards to the exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbons in their town. This ordinance was based on the 5th article of the Municipal Charter, "To guarantee in every way the right of the inhabitants to enjoy a proper environment for human development, preserving their health, maintaining and protecting the ecology and landscape, by means of a rational use of natural resources, considering land, water and air as common heritage of the township, regulating its use by the community, taking proper measures to avoid contamination." Nevertheless, this ordinance was declared unconstitutional thanks to the intervention of the governor himself, some months after its approval. Business with Apache has encouraged a political use of justice. If it were not for the above mentioned 5th article of the Municipal Charter, they wouldn't have even begun their activities in Allen, or much less have continued after the approval of the anti-fracking city ordinance. From our point of view, all oil companies, both national and multinational, benefit from the extraction of oil, to obtain large monetary gains, but care little about our most precious and essential assets in regards to life in the surrounding rivers, fauna, water and other complex ecosystems! These big oil-extracting machines you use and export are like modern vampires, sucking our mother Earth and, due to your great negligence in their using, create destruction by means of the contamination. We believe it's high time to firmly defend our whole natural environment, our present and future life depends on that and on a greater consciousness about our life. This is why we consider this a vital and necessary movement; strong and without pause for social-environmental causes and organizations, as well as of the original peoples. That's why we want to let you know that we have so far been determined in our struggle for decontamination and prevention against the pollution, which can only take place by means of ethical principles of different world views.

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