Many members of Argentina’s indigenous communities live in “appalling” conditions as a result of “extreme poverty, socio-cultural isolation and without access to basic services,’’ a report by a United Nation expert on human rights released this week has concluded.
The report, released by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Tuesday, was prepared by Mutuma Ruteere, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
He concluded that “as elsewhere in the world, discriminatory practices in the country have often targeted the poor and, in effect, the most vulnerable who belong to minority groups including indigenous peoples, Afro-Argentines, and migrant communities.”
Indigenous groups make up roughly two percent of Argentina’s 43 million people but include only a fraction of those represented in the country’s government and judiciary – the bodies assigned to enforce laws to protect their rights.
Ruteere traveled throughout Argentina from May 16th to May 23rd to assess the situation of indigenous peoples, migrants, those of African descent, and other marginalized groups.
In addition to criticizing their living conditions and human rights concerns, he said that many indigenous groups live “without access to basic services such as adequate health, decent housing or even drinkable water.”
Ruteere also found that in certain parts of the country, mobilization by indigenous groups to defend their rights has largely been repressed, while police profiling and violence against migrants from neighboring countries has become a common occurrence.
He called on the Argentine authorities to create a national strategy to address the rights of the those who are discriminated against.
Argentina’s constitution recognizes the rights of indigenous groups to their ancestral lands and includes a progressive migration law that recognizes migration as a fundamental inalienable right. In practice, however, there continues to be conflict between indigenous groups and state and private companies involved in agriculture, logging and mining, who are interested in developing on or near their lands, human rights groups say.
Despite these protections, many of these laws are not effectively implemented.
“Access to land titles remains challenging and new provisions need to rapidly be adopted to protect communities from being evicted,” Ruteere said.
Even more alarming, however, are the living conditions of those living in the country’s indigenous communities, many situated in the northwest part of the republic.
Argentina has over 35 distinct indigenous groups yet they are largely invisible in society.
“This is particularly urgent for indigenous peoples as the current modes of their participation have largely failed to provide them with the voice and visibility necessary to remedy their long history of exclusion and marginalization,” the report said.
Ruteere recommended implementing affirmative action measures to guarantee minority groups are represented in positions of influence, such as in education, the legislature, and executive positions.
“The current condition of indigenous peoples cannot wait and requires immediate attention from the highest levels of national and Federal governments,” he wrote.