Italian landshark rebuffed

Published: Saturday 15 January 2005

United colours of Mapuches on< (Credit: Indymedia)Certain things can't be bought; among them is people's right over their ancestral land. This message was slapped on Italian business tycoon Luciano Benneton's face recently when he tried to act benevolent with Mapuche and Tehuelche Indians.

Benneton had recently offered to put 2,500 hectares (ha) of "good quality" land in Argentine Patagonia under the control of Nobel laureate Aldolfo Prez Esquivel for being used by the Indians. Esquivel has supported the Indians in their fight for their ancestral lands. But the Indians rejected Benetton's offer, saying they wanted their ancestral lands to be reinstated in entirety.

Benneton owns 900,000 ha land in Argentine Patagonia. "Here, it has to be understood that we are not talking about philanthropy. Our initial position is to revert the situation of abuse in which we live as a native people," said Mauro Milln of the Mapuche-Tehuelche Organization. In June 2004, a Mapuche family lost a legal process against the Land Company Southern Argentina, a property of Benneton. The family was charged with usurping 534 ha of its own land and was evicted from it. Subsequent meetings between the two parties to solve the issue, including one held recently in Rome, Itlay, have yielded no result.

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