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World’s Largest Pig Farm in Chile faces Continuing Protests by Residents of Freirina

World’s Largest Pig Farm in Chile faces Continuing Protests by Residents of Freirina
May 22
13:57 2012

FREIRINA — Residents of Freirina are continuing their demonstrations against the bad smells being emitted by the world’s largest pig farm at the Agrosuper food production plant in Chile’s Atacama region. Protests have been ongoing since last Thursday and have been met with forceful police intervention. Demonstrators are currently preventing access to the C-46 road which connects Vallenar and Huasco.

The spokesperson for the demonstrators, Yahir Rojas, blamed government incompetence for “all the violence that exists in the Valle de Huasco”.  In an interview with Chilean TV station TVN, Rojas placed the majority of the blame on the governors of the provinces: Ximena Matas, Nicolás Noman, and Fernando Flores.

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Photo: Cesar Orellana via twitpic

“…they have done nothing. They lack respect for members of the community, have broken their promises, and signed documents with which they have subsequently failed to follow through. This situation has been pushed to the brink because they did not know how to control the situation or how to respond to this movement’s demands,” he said.

Rojas maintained that the roadblock would continue, and that the only way of ending this would be through the complete suspension of Agrosuper’s projects.

However, there are now worries that the roadblock, which also prevents access to the plant itself, could provoke a severe sanitary crisis.  There has been an accumulation of pig excrement and carcasses in the Agrosuper plant. The Minister of Health, Jaime Mañalich, travelled to Copiapó on Monday afternoon in order to evaluate the situation in Freirina, as well as this possible sanitary crisis.

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Photo: Red SurDA via twitpics

At 8 p.m. the Minister met with local authorities and, detailed his concern about the amount of pigs that were dying. He outlined that currently there are around 500,000 pigs starting to die in the Agrosuper plant. There is a huge risk of “converting into a sanitary catastrophe”.

If this continues, the decaying carcasses will attract wild animals and rodents, transmitting diseases to the population and contaminating their drinking water. The Minister added that these effects on the population’s health could last months or years.

A meeting was scheduled for today at 12:30 p.m. between the Minister, representatives of the community, the Minister of Environment, María Ignacia Beníte, and the Undersecretary of the Interior, Rodrigo Ubilla. The aim of the meeting is to explain these potential health risks to the representatives of the community.

The Minister also concluded that, “Together with the governor, Ministers of Environment and the Undersecretary of the Interior, the plant’s fate needs to be decided.”

These talks and protests follow the silent demonstrations which took place during President Piñera’s speech yesterday in Valparaíso, when members of parliament from the Atacama region held up placards in support of the demonstrators. Additionally, the head of the Socialist party, Isabel Allende, spoke about the situation yesterday.

“What has happened in Freirina is very painful. The situation has been handled terribly, which has only led to an increase in violence,” she said. “The people of Freirina do not deserve this.”

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Sophie Bauer

Sophie is a student from the UK on her year abroad here in Chile and has been living in Santiago since September 2011. She works as an English language assistant and is a volunteer with the English Opens Doors Program and Amnesty International.

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