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Mapuche communities resisting land grabbing by Benetton, Argentina

Mapuches communities in Santa Rosa Leleque fighting for decades to regain their ancestral lands, under the Benetton's brothers property.


In 1991 the Italian company Benetton purchased 970,000 ha of land to Compania de Tierras Sur Argentino S.A., then the biggest landowner in Argentine Patagonia. Much of this land was the ancestral home of the indigenous Mapuche people, yet they were expelled from their traditional home. In August 2002, two Mapuches Atilio Curianco and Rosa Nahuelquir occupied, 385 hectares of land in Santa Rosa - Leleque, Patagonia that had been sold to the company. This led to a media campaign and Argentine Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel also supported the Mapuches claim. The company offered the community 7,500 ha of land in the Chubut province instead but the community and Province government have refused, stating the land is not productive. In 2007 a group of Mapuche re-occcupied Santa Rosa. As the conflict had not been resolved, the occupation persisted. In late 2014, the Chubut Government recognized to the Mapuche people the use and the ownership of 625 ha in Santa Rosa, under the framing of the the law 26.160.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Mapuche communities resisting land grabbing by Benetton, Argentina
State or province:Chubut
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Deforestation
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Land acquisition conflicts
Logging and non timber extraction
Specific commodities:Timber
Biological resources
Live Animals
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Benetton used this land to keep 260,000 animals, including sheep, goats and rams, which produce 1 million 300 thousand kilograms of wool every year, for export to Europe, and 16,000 cattle destined for the slaughterhouse. They also use the land for forestry.

Project area:970000
Level of Investment:130000000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:1991
Company names or state enterprises:Companyia de Tierras Sur-Argentino from Argentina
Benetton from Italy
Relevant government actors:Provincial Governor of Chubut, INTA, IAC
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Mapuche International, Organizacion Mapuches Tehuelches 11 de Octubre, Comunidad Santa Rosa, Movimiento Mapuche Autónomo (MAP)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of alternatives:Returning the complete area to the Mapuche.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:In 2004 a judge in the town of Esquel ruled in favour of the company in the dispute over the ownership of some 500 hectares of pampa in the Patagonia region.
In 2010 the litigation between the Mapuche community and the company Benetton continues.
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

ILO 169

Law 3657 in the Province of Chubut

Argentine Constitution (section 17 of article 75)

Law N°26.160

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Indigenous peoples. Their forests, struggles and rights. World Rainforest Movement. 2005

Asuntos Indigenas 4/2004, Derechos Territoriales. Iwgia. 2004

La tierra que nos quitaron. Carrasco, Morita; Briones, Claudia. Iwgia. 1996

EL CASO LHAKA HONHAT. Titulacion de tierras indigenas. Carrasco, Norita; Zimerman, Silvina. Iwgia. 2006

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

In Search of Their Roots: The Mapuche and Modern Society, Safiullina, A., The Argentina Independent, 29 April 2013.
[click to view]

[click to view]

The invisible colours of Benetton
[click to view]

La Comunidad contra la Compañía: Mapuche vs. Benetton & Co, Kosovsky, D., Voces del Fenix,
[click to view]

Benetton, otra vez con visitas, Aranda, D., Pagina12, 23/04/2015
[click to view]

Argentina. La justicia de Benetton contra el Mapuche “Se está judicializando un reclamo social” afirmó la defensa, 6/06/2015
[click to view]

Mapuche International (English)
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Documentary SUR, by Tommaso Barsali. SUR is a documentary project about a Mapuche family reclaiming the right to live on their ancestral land in Patagonia, Argentina, in a major case of post-colonial landgrabbing. Free access in Vimeo
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Lucie Greyl
Last update10/08/2017
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