The Cause

La Causa – The Cause – Die Rechtssache

The legal lawsuit starting on July 11th can be thought to be the result of ten years of valid citizen complaints and struggle. Here is the history review of the cause that led to the first trial for fumigation in Argentina.

Ituzaingó Anexo is a neighbourhood located in Córdoba. It is known for its high number of sick neighbours due to environmental pathologies. Furthermore, It is situated on the south-east part of Córdoba city; it is adjacent to Circunvalación Avenue, between Ruta Nacional 9 and the Córdoba-Pilar highway. There are around of 5.000 inhabitants living in 1.200 houses within 30 squares. What is more, in the northern part of the neighbourhood, there is an industrial area that is divided by the Road to Capilla de los Remedios. And, in the Western side, Ituzaingó Anexo borders on two other neighbourhoods: Ituzaingó and Los Eucalitptos.

Social and Economic Conditions

Since the 50’s, it has been an increasing industrial concentration, especially regarding Fiat-CONCORD company, which started to grow tirelessly at the beginning of the 70’s. Mainly, the neighbourhood area depends on the metalworking industry; But, there is also a significant relationship with the extensive productive rural area, (“agriculture boarder”)

Moreover, not only do the Ituzaingó Anexo people have limited economic resources but

they also seem to have to deal with volatile social relations. However, fortunately, schools, and health cares have been built; And, streets, as well as the public transport have been improved in the past ten years.

Environmental Conflicts

At the end of 2001, a group of mothers started to get worried about the neighbourhood health when they figured out how great was the amount of women and children wearing headscarfs and surgical masks. As a result, Complaints have been brought to the authorities in order to recognize the illnesses and the possible contaminant resource. However, such complaints caused political disputes between the Cordoba providence government, which is led by the PJ party; and the municipality government, led by the opposition. Nevertheless, mitigation measures successfully were taken to discover the possible pollution resource that can cause damage on people’s health. Furthermore, it is important to stand out that these measures were carried out only because of the neighbours’ pressure, who stood up for their rights to medical and security care. Moreover, the successful struggle seems to have been the leading cause to the foundation of The Córdoba Oncology Hospital, The Oncology Public Centre, and The Provincial Register for Tumours.

Moreover, thanks to the neighbours’ complaints, specially the ones led by “Madres de barrio Ituzaingó” group, there have been bylaws enacted that established “ the emergency in public and environmental health”. Moreover, It was by these regulations (n° 10505, 10589, 10590) that fumigating around the neighbourhood was forbidden, which finally led to the fumigation banning in the whole common land of the city.

In June 2002, the Town Council solicited to the Providence Agricultural Council to oversee the use of agrochemicals, and its spread by air. However, the new regulation was only abided by a few percentage of growers; and, the recommended distance to fumigate was not observed. On the contrary, sporadically, there have been cases when producers spread through the air and soil illegal agrochemicals, which caused the irreversible consequence of people being intoxicated.

Many Accusations, Two Causes, and One Trial

Although it was in vain, Ituzaingó Anexo neighbours brought formal complaints to stop fumigations. For instance, in 2004, January the 11th , Sofia Gatica reported that in a place called“Campo de Parra”, located in the eastern part of the neighbourhood, toxic chemicals for agriculture purposes were released by land machines (mosquito). The district attorney proceeded to investigate for the situation and raided the place. As a consequence, it was found poison leftovers, both organochlorine and phosphorus chemical compounds, among other harmful substances; such as, 2.4D, diendrin, and chlorophylls. Nevertheless, the file was closed after February the 24th in 2004. Such situation did not

change. And, while some pollution sources were tapped, the use of agrotoxic chemicals persisted. As a matter of fact, in 2007 June 19th , another neighbour complained again about the illegal fumigating. But this recrimination was only kept in the file located at the district attorney’s office, (Mr Robert Mathew’s).

After more than six years, in 2011 may the 18th, and a bit earlier from the attorney quitting the prosecution, Mr. Matheu ascribed violating the Dangerous Waste Law (num. 24.051) to Mr. Francisco R. Indeed, the trial took place within the context of the lawsuit originated in 2008, which established that an offence against public health had occurred. That is to say, the former penal lawsuit has been added to the latter lawsuit of 2008, and they will be tried together at an oral and public court.

In 2008 February the 1st, the undersecretary of Public Health of Córdoba City, Dr Medardo Ávila Vázquez, reported to the new district attorney of penal instruction, Carlos Matheu that a non identifiable aircraft had been throwing toxic waste in Ituzaingó Anexo neighbourhood. Such legal report led to the possible aircraft identification. As a matter of fact, it was found that its registration number was LV-AXC and that it was the property of Mr Edgardo J. Pancello. Indeed, the legal investigation conducted revealed that the biological material in the neighbourhood contained glyphosate, endosulfan, among other dangerous chemicals. Moreover, it was established that not only did Mr. Pancello break the Council Regulation and the Provincial Law for agrochemicals (N° 9164), but he also violated the National Law for Toxic Waste from the Penal Code, art. 200. Furthermore, the N° 9164 law prohibits the use of toxic waste; such as pesticides, that can both contaminate the neighbourhood environment and put people’s health in danger. As a matter of fact, the legal enquiry set that Mr. Pancello should be investigated for having carried out the criminal action for the great soy businessmen: Mr. Francisco Parra and Jorge A. Gabrielli. Moreover, it was found that such clandestine and illegal the action had been that no formal complaints acts were found. And, it was required to ban this illegal activity for once, for the chemicals are extremely harmful and dangerous.

The District attorney, Mr. C. Matheu, brought the 2008 lawsuit to trial. However, the preceding trial judge, Mr. Esteban Díaz, rejected the case. Later, Mr. C. Matheu turned to the House of Appeals, which was the place where the lawsuit was acknowledged. And it was there where the previous judge, Mr Esteban Díaz, was scolded for not having fulfilled his constitutional duties properly.

However, it can be said that the legal process to take on the law case was appealing. As a matter of fact, many Houses of Crime decided not to be involved in the lawsuit in the past years; Moreover, the arguments were thought to be illogical for the public. But, hopefully, the House of Crime N° 1 and its district attorney, Dr. Alejandro Novillo, accepted the challenge to take the lawsuit. Actually, this case can mean a unique preceding for protecting the vulnerable people that suffer the consequences of the the avarice of the businessmen. Indeed, as it can be seen, tycoons will not think of it twice to poison rural schools, water supplies in many towns, when it comes to increase their incomes.

Nevertheless, it may be sterling to know that the trial was delayed due to gathering the amount of complaints by Sofía Gatica (2004), Ituzaingó Mothers and the Municipal Social Health Office (2008). Indeed, the trial begins on 2012 June the 11th.

In fact, in this legal process about to start, the prosecution will be in charge of Dr. Marcelo Novillo, with the help of the attorney Dr. Carlos Matheu, and the client, Dr. Miguel Antonio Martínez. Nevertheless, It is important to stand out that the person who reported the lawsuit in 2008, Dr. Madardo Ávila Vazquez will be the plaintiff in the trial. This seems to happen because of Mr. Ávila’s public interest for protecting the population health in Córdoba.

As a matter of fact, the plaintiff will present as witnesses the great amount of people suffering the fumigation not only in the neighbourhood but in other parts of Argentina, as well. What is more, Agriculture experts, medics and university professors will also testify, in order to explain how is that glyphosane generates the development of cancer and malformations on people.

As regards the prosecution, it will be in charge of the most important law firm, known for having appeared many times on the mass media. As a matter of fact, it is said that the prosecution will earn exorbitant fees for the case. In this way, Dr. Alejandro Pérez Moreno will defend the aircraft navigator, Mr. Edgardo Pancello; and Dr. Carlos Hairabedian will represent the soy businessman, Mr. Jorge Gabriello. Nevertheless, the last soy attorney, Mr. Francisco Parra has submitted his resignation and a new attorney’s name is awaited.

Indeed, the pollution effects originated by the toxic agriculture in Ituzaingó anexo neighbourhood can be observed on its diseases distribution map.

So far, it can be assumed that a special link between the chemicals and the diseases exists. That is to say, the closer to the plots of soybeans people are, the sicker they get; For instance, in the past years, many cases of cancer, endocrine disorders, among others, have been claimed by people living in these areas. However, it can be seen that ill people do not live near the transformers containing PBC, and their social distribution is equal, but everyone consumed the drinking water polluted with arsenic.

On the other hand, bio- indicator studies have revealed that nod only do kids register the presence of pesticides on their bodies, but they also have a bigger number of metabolites than the normal population. Moreover, studies could show that there was slightly the presence of other contaminants; such as PBC on their bodies.

Nevertheless, it can be pointed out that in this part of the city, many contaminants were released, and, they all are involved in people’s environmental health problems. However, the most harmful pollution resource is the spread of agrotoxic chemicals. As a matter of fact, research has revealed that the fumigation and the decrease on the health quality are linked towards one another; In fact, after the full fumigations in 1997 and the years ahead, more cases of severe diseases started to show up.

To sum up, clearly, in this penal trial the right to live within a healthy environment and have a good health will be facing the non stop avarice of the toxic agriculture prototype in Argentina. Indeed, such agricultural model implies the use of more than 340 million of litres of poison: thrown at a place where 12 million people live and, gradually, they are suffering the impact of pollution on their bodies. As a result, it seems that this toxic model only benefits the great biotechnological companies and agrotoxic chemicals that control the economic market these days.