Magazine article New Internationalist

Rise Up for the Dead Cow

Magazine article New Internationalist

Rise Up for the Dead Cow

Article excerpt


Vaca Muerta, or Dead Cow, is the unlikely name of a supergiant shale oil and gas field in Argentina, the third largest of its kind in the world. Wanting to frack it for all it's worth is Argentina's largest corporation, the majority state-owned oil company YPF, hooking up with the US giant Chevron.

Chevron has form in this part of the world. Ecuador continues to fight the oil company in court over environmental damage in the Amazon. And until recently the Argentine judiciary was debating a freeze of Chevron's assets in the country. So the union with YPF has not been met with cheers all around.

All of Argentina's fracking projects currently under way can be found in one of the country's most pristine regions, mythical Patagonia. Vaca Muerta is in the southern province of Neuquén - also the hottest spot in the fight against fracking in Argentina.

Local people are not giving up their resources and their livelihoods without a fight. Grassroots organizations across Argentina are opposing this latest attempt at solving the country's deep- rooted energy crisis, potentially at a very high environmental and social cost.

At the forefront are indigenous communities, such as the Mapuche people in Neuquén. 'Our land is already completely polluted by conventional oil exploitation by transnational companies,' says Lefxaru Nawel from the Mapuche Confederation of Neuquén. Fracking, he says, has only come to make things worse. 'The Mapuche community of Gelay Ko saw the first fracking well in Latin America. This has aggravated the existing situation - over there they can't drink the water, a lot of people are sick due to pollution, and six months ago our lonjjko [leader] Cristina Lincopan passed away - she was the biggest fighter against fracking.'

Lincopan died on 14 March 2013 of pulmonary hypertension, after she was unable to receive a lung transplant. She was 30. 'We strongly suspect that envionmental pollution had a lot to do with her diagnosis,' said the community's werken [spokesperson], Maria Pichiñan, at the time.

The communities are not alone in their fight. Backing them are prominent personalities such as Argentine Nobel Peace Prize recipient Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and the Argentina Without Fracking network, formed by a group of intellectuals ancf artists. …

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