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Small-scale fisher people against contaminating industries in Valparaiso, Chile

The ongoing contamination in the "Sacrifice Zone" of Quintero and Puchuncavi and the lack of measures against contamination and to protect environmental defenders led to the assassination of artisanal fisherman and fisher union leader Alejandro Castro.


The communities in Quintero and Puchuncavi have been resisting the industrial pollution in their area already for some decades by naming Quintero as one of Chile's four "Sacrifice Zones" [12, 18]. A range of  industries have been operating in this region without an effective public monitoring since 1964, dumping different types of toxic chemicals in unknown quantities. "The term is used by socio-ecological movements in Chile to characterize geographical areas where industry and waste production are so heavy that the whole area and the people living there are considered sacrificed on the altar of economic growth" [18] In order to establish a stronger and coordinated network to act against such an immense contamination, local people and communities have founded a "cabildo abierto" (open council) to confront environmental crisis [19].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Small-scale fisher people against contaminating industries in Valparaiso, Chile
State or province:Valparaiso
Location of conflict:Quintero y Puchuncavi
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral processing
Chemical industries
Ports and airport projects
Oil and gas refining
Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific commodities:Fish
Crude oil
Chemical products
Industrial waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details

"As of today, there are at least 12 high-impact industries operating [13] in the Puchuncavi zone in an area of 8.5 square km, including oil refining, chemical processing, thermoelectric industry and a copper processing plant. According to the Chilean legislation, an area can be called saturated due to the pollutant’s concentration. But environmental legislation does not prohibit installation of new facilities and a cleaning plan can take up to 9 years" before it really takes place" [18].

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Project area:8,500
Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:01/05/2016
Company names or state enterprises:Empresa Nacional del Petróleo (ENAP) from Chile
Gasmar from Chile
Oxiquim from Chile
Relevant government actors:El Ministro del medioambiente;
El ministro de Bienes Nacionales
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Greenpeace Chile,
Amnistia Internacional,
El sindicato de pescadores artesanales S24,
Salvemos Quintero:,
Acción EcoSocial Quintero:ón-EcoSocial-Quintero-1674420109350990/posts/
Industrial Chile Contramed,
Cabildo Abierto de Quintero [19];
El Movimiento por la Infancia de Quintero [12],
Mujeres en Zona de Sacrificio [12],
Hombres Verdes [12],
Ciudadana Despierta Quintero Puchuncaví [12]
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Industrial workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Soil contamination, Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsAssassination of environmental activists, intoxication of children due to chemical waste
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Development of alternatives:The communities, fisher people and the entire network protesting the contamination in Quintero propose stopping the toxic activities of the industries in the "Sacrifice Zone" and cleaning up the area.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The contamination caused by the toxic industries led to the criminalization of activists and even to the assassination of Alejandro Castro.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Una ecología política feminista en construcción: El caso de las "Mujeres de zonas de sacrificio en resistencia", Región de Valparaíso, Chile (Bolados and Sanchez, 2017) [14]
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Pescadores de Quintero se declaran en crisis por desaparicion de la jibia (11.2017) [2]
[click to view]

Dirigente pescadores y derrame en Quintero: "ENAP nuevamente contamina el mar y no existe ningún responsable" (El Mostrador, 16.05.2016) [7]
[click to view]

Exigen aclarar muerte de Alejandro Castro, pescador artesanal y activista contra la contaminación en Quintero (Kaosenlared, 07.10.2018) [4]
[click to view]

Dirigente pescadores “ENAP nuevamente contamina el mar y no existe ningún responsable” (Futuro renovable) [6]
[click to view]

Autopsia descarta tesis de suicidio de activista ambiental Macarena Valdés (Radio Uchile, 16.01.2018) [11]
[click to view]

Declaración Pública sobre contaminación en Quintero y Puchuncaví (Colegio medico) [15]
[click to view]

Acuerdo de Escazú: Critican que Chile postergue firma de tratado ambiental (Cooperativa, 26.09.2018) [16]
[click to view]

Campañas pasadas: Zonas de Sacrificio (Oceana) [17]
[click to view]

Chilean union leader found dead one day after anti-pollution demo (Common Dreams, 16.10.2018) [18]
[click to view]

Director de la PDI asegura que dirigente sindical Alejandro Castro habría recibido amenazas de muerte (El desconcierto, 05.10.2018) [9]
[click to view]

Con represión y supuestos conflictos de interés: continúa Alerta Sanitaria en Quintero (01.10.2018) [12]
[click to view]

Vecinos de Quintero realizan cabildo abierto para enfrentar crisis ambiental (ADN Radio, 02.09.2018) [19]
[click to view]

Amnistía Internacional: “La violencia contra defensores del medio ambiente ha pasado los límites aceptables” (Diario Chile, 08.10.2018) [8]
[click to view]

Historia ambiental de Quintero y Puchuncaví [13]
[click to view]

El Mostrador - La sospechosa muerte de Alejandro Castro y la vulnerabilidad de los activistas ambientales

por Macarena Segovia 12 octubre, 2018
[click to view]

Peritos de la PDI resultaron intoxicados tras inspeccionar planta de ENAP en Quintero (ADN Radio, 10.10.2018) [20]
[click to view]

Pareja de dirigente de Quintero pone en duda su suicidio: “Tenía muchos proyectos en su mente como para hacer algo así” (El desconcierto, 06.10.2018) [1]
[click to view]

Greenpeace Chile criticó a Sebastián Piñera: “Las tronaduras perpetúan operaciones contaminantes en zonas como Quintero” (CNN Chile, 26.09.2018) [3]
[click to view]

Peritos de PDI que tomaron muestras en Enap sufrieron intoxicación (La tercera, 09.10.2018) [21]
[click to view]

Denuncian amenazas de Carabineros a Alejandro Castro y Amnistía Internacional exige investigación imparcial (El mostrador, 05.10.2018) [5]
[click to view]

Senador Latorre pide fiscal especial para Alejandro Castro: “Hay cámaras de la empresa portuaria que podrían ser reveladoras” (El desconcierto, 09.10.2018) [10]
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

La PDI confirmo que el activista muerto en Quintero había sido intimidado (05.10.2018) [22]
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Irmak Ertör, ENVJUSTICE Project, UAB-ICTA
Last update18/08/2019
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