By Javier Castro Bugarin
Buenos Aires, Jun 21 (EFE).- People marched here Wednesday to blast the governor of the northwestern Argentine province of Jujuy for enacting controversial constitutional changes that sparked violent protests in the region last weekend.
While Argentina’s outgoing president, Alberto Fernandez, urged Gov. Geraldo Morales – himself a presidential hopeful – to “comply with international standards with regard to human rights.”
“It is unacceptable for state violence to be the response of a government to the legitimate demands and expressions of their communities,” Fernandez said in a speech from the presidential palace.
“To deny the right of protest is to curtail constitutional liberties and to bind our democratic life,” he said, holding up statements from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International condemning the police repression of demonstrations in Jujuy.
Fernandez said that he ordered the Justice Ministry to prepare legal challenges to the changes to Jujuy’s regional charter on the grounds that they “violate the national constitution and international treaties.”
“Don’t use the people of Jujuy as a test bench for the repression and plunder that certain political sectors want to carry forward,” the president said, addressing Morales.
The governor, who is seeking the presidential nomination of Together for Change, the right-wing coalition founded by former head of state Mauricio Macri, accused the national government of promoting violent protests in Jujuy.
“There is a situation of extreme violence, by those who have made violence a way of life, and we will not permit it,” Morales told Radio La Red.
Union members, human rights advocates, and grassroots activists joined Wednesday in a procession that paralyzed traffic on a main thoroughfare in Buenos Aires to dramatize demands for an end to “repression” in Jujuy and the release of protesters arrested last weekend in the provincial capital.
“The Jujuy governor has established a constitution that violates the national constitution, that takes away from the indigenous peoples the right to their lands and the right to protest. Both rights are stipulated in the national constitution, and when we protest for those rights, he represses,” union executive Eduardo Lopez told EFE.
Demonstrations will continue “until Jujuy can live in peace,” Aymara indigenous activist Melany Huesca said.
Morales and his allies “don’t understand anything more than to plunder resources without concern for the well-being of the indigenous peoples,” she told EFE, adding that the governor’s initiatives “only favor him and his businesses.”
The changes to Jujuy’s constitution include a prohibition on road-blocking protests and limits on the ability of indigenous people to secure title to ancestral lands. EFE jacb/dr