Argentine court rules to evict agroecological Artigas Project

Dolores Etchevehere who resisted the eviction was detained while her brothers took possession of the property which movements along with Dolores had sought to convert into an agroecological productive farm

October 30, 2020 by Tanya Wadhwa
Neighbors, political leaders, social activists, feminists and environmentalists mobilized in support of Dolores Etchevehere in Entre Ríos province on October 26. Photo: Bárbara Leiva/ Notas Periodismo Popular

The members of the Artigas Project withdrew from the Casa Nueva ranch, owned by the Etchevehere family in the Entre Ríos province, on October 29, after a provincial court ruled in favor of Dolores Etchevehere’s brothers and ordered the provincial police to evict the people who had “occupied” the property. Dolores Etchevehere resisted the eviction and was detained by the police for “judicial disobedience.” Dolores’ brothers and their mother waited at the entrance of the ranch and immediately took possession of the farm after the eviction.

Social activist and lawyer Juan Grabois, who is Dolores’ advocate in the Etchevehere case of family conflict over the property of the Casa Nueva ranch, in a video released after the court’s ruling, said that they will abide by the ruling, will leave the ranch and continue the battle in courts.

“We are not going to deny it, we have suffered a defeat. A defeat that hurts and saddens us. It hurts us for Dolores, an emblematic victim of domestic and institutional gender violence. Dolores, heir to an immeasurable fortune, today is practically destitute. She never received the money that appears in the papers forged by the Etchevehere family and their troop of extortionist lawyers linked to drug trafficking,” said Grabois in the video, assuring that “sooner or later we are going to succeed.”

Later, Grabois, who is also a leader of the left-wing political front, Frente Patria Grande, a part of the ruling center-left coalition, Frente de Todos, wrote in a tweet that “we await the prompt release of Dolores. Today, the owners of Argentina are celebrating. One day, the table will turn around and the dispossessed and excluded will celebrate. Sometimes the seeds are planted with pain. Extremely proud of our activists.”

A few hours later, through a tweet, the members of the Artigas Project informed that “Dolores Etchevehere has been released and is ready to continue facing her brothers’ mafia in court. Artigas Project has planted its first seed. The fight continues!”

What is the Artigas Project?

The Artigas Project is an agroecological production initiative. Its objectives are to produce healthy food, generate jobs in agroecology and achieve food sovereignty in the provinces. It is an alternative to the extractive model. It aims to work the land, without damaging the environment. “Building a sustainable and pesticides and exploitation free agricultural model” is its slogan.

The project is made up of landless peasants, social activists, agricultural technicians, rural and environmental organizations, supported by the Excluded Workers Movement (MTE) and the Union of Workers of the Popular Economy (UTEP). It is based on three fundamental pillars: truth, justice and reparation.

The project was launched by Dolores Etchevehere and Juan Grabois on October 15 and Dolores donated 40% of her inheritance of the Casa Nueva farmland to this project.

Dolores Etchevehere, is the sister of former agricultural minister of Macrismo and former president of the Sociedad Rural Argentina (SRA), Luis Etchevehere. SRA is a civil association that brings together large estate owners in the Pampas region of Argentina.

Since October 16, thousands of members of various Argentine social movements and political organizations have been mobilizing in support of the Artigas Project and the struggle of Dolores Etchevehere in the recovery of her inheritance.

Who is Dolores Etchevehere?

In a video released on the day the Artigas Project was launched, Dolores Etchevehere told the story of injustice, oppression and violence faced by her on part of her brothers Luis Miguel, Juan Diego and Arturo Sebastián Etchevehere, and their mother, Leonor Barbero Marcial de Etchevehere.

Dolores, who is also a owner of the ranch and other properties owned by the Etchevehere family by inheritance, was betrayed and swindled by her own brothers. When their father died in 2009, her brothers not only excluded Dolores from business, but also prevented her from accessing her hereditary rights. She did not receive a penny or have any assets in her name. Their father had assigned a house for each of his children including Dolores. However, her brothers expelled her from the house that belonged to her.

Likewise, in the video, Dolores also denounced her siblings for “fraudulent administration, tax evasion, laundering, exploitation of labor and economic violence” in various family businesses.

In response to her complaint in the Etchevehere case, social movements grouped under the Artigas Project, organized and recovered a portion of the Casa Nueva ranch, corresponding to 25% of the Etchevehere’s hereditary patrimony. “It is a historic reparation for the dispossession suffered by Dolores and so many other victims of a corrupt elite landowner: rural workers, tenants, peasants,” said the members of the project. The 40% of this land was donated by public deeds to the Artigas Project. However, the Etchevehere family accused the social movements of “usurping the farm.”

Luis Etchevehere and local estate owners who support him also demonstrated demanding full possession of Casa Nueva, calling the establishment of Artigas Project “an attack against private property.”

Nevertheless, the social movements stated that they are determined to fight in defense of the Artigas Project and Dolores Etchevehere and several others who have been exploited for decades by the large landowners.

Juan Grabois, in a interview with Télam, explained that the Artigas Project seeks that “the land belongs to those who work it, in a homeland that is the common heritage of Creoles, migrants and native people, and not of a minority that, due to violence and corruption, owns everything.”

Dolores said that although the Artigas Project “starts with the Etchevehere case, it seeks to extend with a call to the deprived and humble sectors, to women who are oppressed or silenced and to all those who consider that their rights were violated.”