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Ten years ago a group of mothers of the neighborhood Ituzaingo Anexo, in Cordoba, Argentina, raised their voice to link the many cases of cancer in the area with the agrotoxic sprayings. On August 21, 2012 their struggle for health and dignity was rewarded: a local court sentenced a producer and a pilot for fumigating soy plantations with glyphosate and endosulphan in Ituzaingo.
The organized neighbors, representatives of environmental group Paren de Fumigar (Stop Fumigating) and others gathered on Tuesday outside the Court in the city of Cordoba to demand that producers Jorge Alberto Gabrielli and Francisco Parra, and fumigator Edgardo Jorge Pancello be sent to prison.
But the Criminal court of Cordoba sentenced Parra and Pancello to three years of preventive prison and acquitted Gabrielli. The ruling also orders Parra to do community service for four years and forbids him to use agrochemical products for eight years. Pancello was also ordered to do community service and he has been forbidden to use agrochemicals for ten years.
Activist Maria Godoy of the group Madres of the Neighborhood Ituzaingó Anexo, described the sentence as “terrible” and said she felt hopeless. “We want these people to go to prison because they poison and kill us, they are spraying us with their poison every day”.
Real World Radio had access to several audio files collected after the reading of the verdict on the website of the Union of Citizen Assemblies. Godoy highlighted that despite her concern over the “preventive imprisonment” ordered to Parra and Pancello, the ruling “is an important step” because there are many organized communities affected by agrotoxics in this country that will now “be able to fight with more confidence. We will stand by them and we will mobilize, because that is the only way to get what we want”, she said.
The trial began on June 11. One of the plaintiffs was doctor Medardo Avila Vazquez, former deputy secretary of Health in Cordoba. Argentinean newspaper Pagina 12 reports that Avila denounced the producers in 2008 for fumigating next to Ituzaingó Anexo, despite the fact that the law bans spraying in a range of 1 mile (in the case of endosulphan) and of 500 yards (in the case of glyphosate) from urban populated centers.
Attorney Marcelo Novillo Corbalán had requested a sentence of four years of prison for Parra, for considering him as the accomplice of the crime of environmental pollution for sprayings from October of 2003 to February of 2004, and guilty of the same crime in another spraying in 2008. Novillo requested also three years of prison for Pancello, for considering him the suspected author of environmental pollution in 2008 when he was spraying one of Parra’s fields. The Attorney’s office requested that Gabrielli be acquitted due to lack of evidence.
Avila, also member of the Network of Doctors of Fumigated Peoples, highlighted after the reading of the verdict that the court in Cordoba declared that fumigating on populated areas is a crime “that people cannot continue to be poisoned so that some become rich”.
Even though he said that “there has not been a sentence against these b***rds that knew the neighborhood was in health emergency and continued to spray their poison there”, he said that now “it is forbidden to fumigate on populated areas in the country and that from now on judges, attorneys and the police have to come to arrest the fumigators and take them to prison”.
He added that “now we have to go after Monsanto” since “we are not willing to accept the installation of a plant of the world’s most sinister, liar and corrupt company”. This US corporation, which developed genetically modified RR soya planted in Argentina and glyphosate, to which the soya is resistant, plans to install a plant in Malvinas Argentinas town, a few kilometers from Ituzaingo Anexo.
Laura Gallo, member of the group Stop Fumigating said Tuesday was a historical day. “Today we can finally say that this activity we have had to put up with (fumigations) and which became naturalized and have caused us illnesses, is a crime. I call everyone to assess the magnitude of this”, she said. Tuesday’s ruling to Gallo is an invitation to support all the communities fumigated in the country “to regain the dignity of a healthy people”.
Earlier this month the National Indigenous and Peasant Movement of Argentina, Grain and Friends of the Earth Argentina launched a “National Campaign Against Agrotoxics and For Life” in Ituzaingó Anexo.
“We shall not leave here with a feeling of defeat, because today we won. We won when we had these people convicted and being tried for two months”, said Gallo.
The lawyer in the 2008 case, Dario Avila said before the ruling was made public that the aim was to “question the production model that damages people’s health as the first trial over agrochemical poisoning in Latin America”. He was cited by Pagina 12 saying that the most recent health surveys carried out to the people of Ituzaingó Anexo show that 33% of the people die of cancer, cancer being the third cause of death in the country, which affects nearly 18% of the population.
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