One of the leaders of the indigenous ancestral lands recovery movement, Mapuche activist Moira Millán has been the target of death threats, attacks and judicial harassment.
This has not discouraged her from speaking out against the violent repression of her community on reclaimed Mapuche land bought by the fashion multinational, Benetton.
Carole Concha Bell reports.
“Benetton has effectively installed a state within a state in Patagonia. They have power and political and economic control in the area. It not only wants to continue to control what is rightly Mapuche land that it has seized, it also wants to destroy it via a mega-mining project,” reflects Moira Millán, Indigenous activist, filmmaker and author from her community near Chubut, Argentina.
Benetton, the global Italian fashion brand that cynically exploits multiculturality in its global advertising brand identity, owns 2.2 million acres of land in Argentina, an area 40 times the size of Buenos Aires, making the company the largest private landowner in the country. Most of the wool they use in their knitwear collections comes from this contested land. The multinational also uses the land for livestock, farming, prospecting, fossil fuel extraction, and logging.
Moira has worked to protect and defend ancestral indigenous territories and the rights of women of the thirty-six indigenous nations that live in Argentina, for two decades and has founded NGO Movimiento de Mujeres Indígenas por el Buen Vivir (Indigenous Women’s Movement for Good Living), which organises visibility campaigns and calls for justice for violations committed against indigenous peoples. Due to her work in the defence of human rights, Millán has been the target of death threats, attacks and judicial harassment. Despite constant pressure and being targeted by racist and misogynist abuse, she remains defiant.
“It’s very clear that Benetton and the state are colluding to usurp Mapuche communities from their ancestral land. This includes judicial persecution, threats and even the murder of our community leaders.” She said.
The role of Benetton in the repression of indigenous communities came under international scrutiny in 2017 when twenty-seven-year-old Argentine Santiago Maldonado went missing after a protest against the fashion giant, in solidarity with the local Mapuche. He was last seen being bundled into an unmarked car and despite the surrounding rivers and areas being searched extensively, he turned up 72 days later, lifeless on a nearby riverbank. The family as yet have not got the justice they seek.
This sinister episode is just one of many involving the fashion label. In 1996 Eduardo Cañulef a rural worker disappeared on Benetton ‘land’. 28-year-old Cañulef had demanded better working conditions and then went missing. This case is just the tip of the iceberg – in the province of Chubut alone there are 145 disappeared Mapuche to date.
Shortly after Maldonado went missing, on Saturday 25 November 2017, Rafael Nahuel, 22, from the city of Bariloche in Río Negro province, was killed by a 9mm bullet that entered through the gluteus and lodged in his lung. The accusations point to the Albatros Group, a special command of the Argentine Naval Prefecture, whose officers, armed with Heckler & Koch MP5 automatic submachine guns (using 9mm calibre ammunition) opened fire.
Today scores of community and spiritual leaders have been imprisoned, including Facundo Jones Huala who is currently serving in a Chilean prison under dubious terrorism charges brought forth in a kangaroo court. Facundo has protested his innocence throughout and has been on several hunger strikes. The families that make up Lof Kurache (the community) where Moira lives, reclaimed a piece of land on 25 December, 2019, staking their ancestral claim to a tiny corner of the 2.2 million acres held by
the Benetton Group, following two other high-profile territorial recoveries that happened on Benetton’s holdings in 2007 and 2015, but they live in constant fear.
“The Argentine state is an accomplice to Benetton; they appear on the scene repressing us like sicarios,” Moria explains. “The threats and repression against us are relentless. Benetton and the Argentine state are in cahoots to usurp and evict the Mapuche.” concludes Moira.
Chile Solidarity Network will be hosting a live talk with Moira on her personal struggles, the future of the Mapuche and the Movimiento de Mujeres Indígenas por el Buen Vivir, on Sunday, October 11 via the CSN Facebook page, from 8pm UK time, in conjunction with Action for Argentina.
You can sign up to attend the event here. They are also raising funds for Moira’s project. You can donate here.