The public fight over a field in one of Argentina’s best-known landowning families has escalated into a political conflict. For almost two weeks, the former Macrista Agroindustria Minister Luis Miguel Etchevehere has been stationed with other producers – and intermittently also his mother, Leonor Marcial Barbero – outside the land where his sister Dolores Etchevehere entered with fifty willing activists to start an agroecological project.
Barbero and his children have denounced the alleged usurpation of the Casa Nueva farm, located in the province of Entre Ríos, before the courts, and are demanding immediate eviction. They maintain that it is a land seizure similar to those carried out in other parts of the country, led by the social leader Juan Grabois. Dolores, in turn, has sued her brother for alleged economic violence and extortion. The repercussions of the case have reached the highest levels. “What does the Government have to do with it?” Alberto Fernández replied when questioned on the radio Subway. “They fight over an inheritance,” “they are things that happen between rich people,” declared the Argentine president when trying to minimize a confrontation that divides the country. “To say that private property is at risk is profound stupidity. There was no gesture in that sense, “he concluded.
The Etchevehere brothers’ dispute dates back to 2009, when their father died. Luis Félix Etchevehere bequeathed half of 5,000 hectares to his widow and the other half to the four children of the couple: Luis Miguel, Sebastián, Dolores and Juan Diego. Among them is the Casa Nueva ranch, covering 1,600 hectares, of which Dolores claims a fraction. “It is a conflict that arises from the death of father. The succession becomes an objective to claim my hereditary rights and that they are fulfilled. When I began to investigate, I began to see in the inheritance file different acts of corruption in which I did not participate, but being a natural partner of my brothers, they implicated me, “the sister told the channel. All News. “I am at home. Luis Miguel Etchevehere is also in a succession house and I never ask him who he invites or what project he promotes from his home. He doesn’t call me on the phone and tell me who’s coming to ask for permission, ”he added.
The version of the older Etchevehere is very different. According to the family clerk, Dolores ceded the hereditary rights to the disputed land in favor of her siblings and collected her share at that time by selling some assets. She denies it: “My signatures were forged in a document in which they de facto take over the administration of everything.”
The relationship is broken: they haven’t seen each other in person for ten years, except in court. Both report hour by hour in the media what happens on the other side of the Casa Nueva gate. They accuse each other of breaking the law. For Barbero and his sons, it is a case of “usurpation and land grabbing” that has the complicity of national and provincial authorities. Dolores accuses them of economic violence and now also of “illegitimate deprivation of liberty, coercion and extortion aggravated by gender and the use of firearms.”
Justice has for now refused to order the urgent eviction of the ranch. The Etchevehere have harshly criticized that ruling and the restraining order issued against them and have challenged the judge. The cause has passed to other hands. “If the judge and the justice of Entre Ríos do not make the decisions they have to make in defense of the property, we will stay here until they give us the order. No one’s going in unless we get run over. If justice does not defend us, if the national government does not defend us, if the provincial government does not defend us, we are going to defend ourselves, ”Barbero told the media.
The brothers have closed the access gate with chains and prevent entry, while celebrating each exit: “Just 10 usurpers left and do not return. We will be at the door until the last of the occupants comes out … ”, Luis Miguel tweeted. “The useless usurpers let a ram die. They have no right !!! It is urgent that the justice order the eviction so that they stop causing more damage !!! ”, the former Macri minister announced later next to the photograph of a dead ram.
The members of the Artigas Project, led by Grabois, accuse them of preventing the entry of the farm workers and also of machinery to work the field and start the project they have in mind, which involves the installation of 30 producing families the first year and doubling the number the second in a crop model without agrochemicals. Their plans collide with an increasingly violent climate, according to Dolores: “Now they announce that in the next few days they are going to spray us. It is tremendous. This has no precedent ”.
Tension is mounting, as is the politicization of the conflict. The owner of the National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism, Victoria Donda intervened in the dispute after receiving a complaint from Dolores for economic violence. “It is one of the forms of violence against women,” explained Donda when explaining his link to the conflict. Elisa Carrió, a member of the opposition coalition Cambiemos, used social networks to express her “total support for the real owner of the land, Leonor Etchevehere, an older woman run over by Kirchnerism and Grabois.” On Sunday, producers supporters of the former macrista minister mobilized in front of the field. A day later, supporters of Grabois did. They all ask for the quick intervention of justice.