Maradona, movie stars and flying jaguars triumph in Argentina

Feature story - 27 October, 2005
It took the intervention of some home-grown celebrities to finally tip the balance in favour of protecting the forests of northern Argentina after a long fight by Greenpeace and the indigenous Wichi people.

Greenpeace JAGUARS activists on motorbikes patrol the clearcut area in the native forest region of North Argentina and stop bulldozers from destroying the forest to expand genetic engineered soya monoculture.

The Pizarro reserve in northern Argentina, where the Great AmericanChaco Forest meets the Yungas Forest was a haven for wildlife and theWichi people who depended on the forest for their livelihoods.

A haventhat is until February 2004, when the state government decided to putthe reserve on the auction block, sold to the highest bidder to beripped up and converted into soy plantations.

We responded immediately with actions in the forest and cyberactions from those who couldn't be there in person. Thevoices of activists from countries near and far were being heard by thegovernment of Argentina and the message was clear, stop the destruction.

Only a few weeks ago the battle to save the forest was still ragingwith bulldozers being stopped in the act of clearing more of thereserve by activists riding motorbikes and flying in helicopterspainted like Jaguars.

In the middle of all the activities to savePizarro, we asked prominent Argentinean actor Ricardo Darin to helpout. Not only did he support the campaign but he also asked one ofArgentina's favourite sons, football legend Diego Maradona to 'put hishand up' for the forest as well, and he did.

Maradona, on his own top rating TV talk show, appealed directly to thepresident to save the reserve from the bulldozers and the soyplantations. A week later, we met with the Argentinean President NéstorKirchner along with a group of artists and indigenous activists andPizarro was saved.

The 22,000 hectares that remained intact from the original reserve willform a new national reserve with the indigenous Wichi people havingexclusive rights to use over 2,000 hectares of the new reserve. Gainingownership over their traditional land gives the Wichi people a chanceto improve the quality of their lives and continue their traditionalway of life in the forest.

Around 3,000 hectares of the original reserve had already beendestroyed by the time the bulldozers were finally silenced so an areathe same size neighbouring the original reserve with similar habitatwill be added to once again make the reserve 25,000 hectares.

This just goes to show what a group of committed activists, with a lotof energy, creativity and help from some friends can achieve. Pizarroreserve is saved!

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