Indigenous residents of the Argentine Chaco community of Santa Victoria Este watch the Internet feed of Inter-American Court of Human Rights hearing on the lands case in March of 2019.
Toward the end of the 19th century, European-descended settlers began arriving in Argentina’s portion of the Chaco, the one-million-square-kilometer (386,000-square-mile), dry wooded plain the country shares with Paraguay and Bolivia. There, in the northeast of the province of Salta, they raised cattle and cut timber, altering the ecosystems that indigenous peoples—until then virtually the only human inhabitants of the region—had long relied on for their survival. Indigenous communities began pushing back formally in 1984, when they registered a complaint with the Argentine government. That effort has yielded a landmark result: an Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling, announced on April 2, that recognizes the rights of these 132 communities not only to land, but also to a healthy environment. The Costa Rica-based court, an autonomous tribunal of the Organization of American States (OAS), ordered that the communities, home to some... [Log in to read more]