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ARGENTINA | 05-06-2018 10:01

Court orders land in Bariloche be transferred to Mapuche indigenous group

The government of President Mauricio Macri, which claims ownership of the land currently being used by Argentina's military, has appealed the ruling.

An Argentine court has accepted a land rights claim by an indigenous Mapuche community in the popular southern resort area of Bariloche.

Judge María José Sarmiento ordered the Executive branch transfer the lands within 60 days to the National Institute for Indigenous Affairs (INAI) to administer the lands on behalf of the Mapuche community of Trypay Antú.

The government of President Mauricio Macri, which claims ownership of the land currently being used by Argentina's military, has appealed the ruling.

Bariloche is a stunning tourist area of outstanding natural beauty. It is around 1,800 kilometres (1,120 miles) southeast of Buenos Aires, with skiing, hiking, mountaineering and other outdoor activities drawing tourists from around the world.

The lands awarded to the Mapuche include the religious pilgrimage site of the Virgen de las Nieves. Reports in Clarín said the area is wanted by real-estate developers. 

Justice ordered that a huge fraction of the emblematic Cerro Otto be handed over to a Mapuche family . The lands are located on the west side, on route 82, meters from the junction that leads to Gutiérrez Lake or Cerro Catedral, a sector known as Virgen de las Nieves .

It is one of the areas most desired by real estate entrepreneurs.

President Macri's government and a radical fringe of the Mapuche community have long been in conflict over ancestral land rights in the country. Tensions increased last year after allegations the Gendarmerie were involved in the disappearance of 27-year-old Santiago Maldonado during a Mapuche protest. He was found dead some weeks later.

The Mapuche are considered the earliest inhabitants of parts of Argentina and Chile. Their numbers were reduced after the Spanish conquest and subsequent independence. They have since pursued historical claims against the authorities for territory and rights. 

A small Mapuche community in Chubut, in Patagonia, is claiming territory in an area of land bought by Italian fashion magnate Luciano Benetton two decades ago.

Around 120,000 Mapuches are part of organised communities in Argentina. Studies have calculated around 600,000 of Argentina's 43.8 million population are of Mapuche descent.

- AFP

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