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The town that defeated Monsanto

The town that defeated Monsanto

By Darío Aranda

Malvinas Argentinas, a small town in Córdoba, achieved what seemed impossible: it kicked out the Monsanto company. After four years of struggles, roadblocks, camping, assemblies and enduring repressions, Mayor Silvina Gómez confirmed that the company sold the land where it had begun to build its largest transgenic corn plant. "It is time to celebrate the great triumph of the Malvinas, which is also a triumph for other peoples of Argentina and the world that fight against extractivism," said Vanina Barboza Vaca, of the Assembly of Malvinas Neighbors Fight for Life.

Malvinas Argentinas made national news on June 15, 2012. The former President announced the construction of the Monsanto mega-plant, the largest agribusiness, transgenic and agrochemical company.

The town is located on the outskirts of the Cordovan capital. Upon finding out on television, the neighbors began to organize. First in a house, then a borrowed party room and also in the square. The Malvinas Neighbors Fight for Life Assembly was born.

They asked their neighbor and then mayor, Daniel Arzani for explanations. The answer was promises of work and care of the environment. They did not believe him. And they began to search for information on who Monsanto was and the agricultural model it represents.

The union with assemblies from all over Córdoba (in the fight against mega-mining and agribusiness), organizations of fumigated towns and the organization Mothers of the Ituzaingó neighborhood was key. They watched documentaries, studied books, contacted researchers and had no doubt that Monsanto's proposal was inscribed in the history of “colored mirrors”, large companies (or countries) that promise wonders, do not fulfill and plunder territories and lives .

They began to inform the population, by handing out brochures and open talks. The assemblies began to be more attended and the proposal to vote yes or no for Monsanto arose. Esquel (Chubut, 2003) and Loncopué (Neuquén, 2012) had already done so against mega-mining. From the three levels of government (municipal, provincial and national) they opposed the vote.

In September 2013, the Assembly organized a festival at the entrance to the company's property (30 hectares on Route 88). "Spring without Monsanto" was the title of the call. There was music and speeches. Among the most remembered was the scientist Andrés Carrasco (who in 2009 confirmed the effects of glyphosate, suffered academic and media persecution, and died in 2014). “The Argentine scientific community executes a plan of complicit legitimation of transgenics. They shut up about the medical and environmental consequences, "he denounced.

Three national universities (Córdoba, Católica and Río Cuarto) were issued and rejected the installation of the plant. Due to the work of the Río Cuarto Sin Agrotoxicos Assembly and the university of the same city, the Mayor of Río Cuarto signed a decree prohibiting Monsanto (which planned an experimental station in the city).

The militancy took place among neighbors who, in many cases, had never participated in organizations or assemblies. The installation of Monsanto also caused what is called “social contamination”, daily unrest in the community, friends in quarrel, estranged families, a breakdown of the social fabric. There were also six orders of repression against the neighbors. The sticks of the Córdoba police and the chains and stones of shock groups from the company and the City Hall alternated.

In January 2014, Chamber II of the Chamber of Labor halted the construction of the plant requested by the Assembly. The ruling declared the unconstitutionality of the permits issued by the Municipality and the province. In February 2014, the provincial Secretary of the Environment rejected Monsanto's environmental impact study due to serious technical deficiencies. In September 2015, the multinational Syngenta gave up its plant in Villa María to avoid “a source of conflict”. The assemblies celebrated.

Malvinas Argentinas began to be the object of study and interest of researchers from different parts of the world, who came and asked what the small town in Latin America that held Monsanto was like. Two slogans of the Assembly, which are still flagship: "Sorry for the inconvenience, we are stopping a genocide" and "Monsanto out of Córdoba and Latin America."

The blockade of the property was maintained for three years. Last September the new “spring without Monsanto” festival was held, and the victory was already savoring. It was made public that Bayer (another agrochemical giant) acquired Monsanto. And a week before, versions of the sale of the property began to transcend. But no official voice confirmed it.

Until the mayor, Silvina González, spoke with the program Bajo el Same Sol (National Radio Córdoba), and confirmed that the company AMG Civil Works had acquired the 30-hectare property. It was the official confirmation that was missing.

Vanina Barboza Vaca, from the Malvinas Assembly, never thought that Monsanto was going to dismantle the structures of its factory, but it is already a reality and almost nothing remains standing. "I feel that it is incredible and I allow myself to rejoice because it is the product of a lot of struggle."

The company has already started the dismantling of the few columns that remained on the premises. And on December 4 there will be a celebration in Malvinas Argentinas. They accomplished what seemed impossible: defeat the largest agribusiness company in the world.

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