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Forum for Justice in Goya, Argentina

Osella and Gastón Flores – President of the FORO). In autumn 2007, we were asked by the FORO por la Justicia (Forum for Justice) in Goya to support its projects and activities. This NGO, based in Goya in Corrientes Province, was established to provide legal advice and support, particularly to landless people and the poorer sections of society, who would otherwise never be able to mount any legal challenges as they are not aware of their own rights. The FORO was founded in 1993 by priests, trade unionists, lawyers and representatives of the civil population. The FORO’s activities, which extend beyond legal support and advice and encompass the training and further education of law students, have gained a high reputation and are well-known in Goya and the surrounding area. The FORO already receives support from the “Ein Körnchen Reis” (“A Grain of Rice”) foundation from Bad Honnef and from the Austrian-Argentinian Friendship Committee, based in Linz.

In early January, I visited the FORO in Goya and had the opportunity to get to know some of its members, as well as taking part in two advice sessions with landless families and being received by the mayor of Goya.

The mayor supports the FORO’s work by meeting the maintenance, service and fuel costs for its vehicle. The vehicle was donated to FORO by the Japanese Ministry of Development Aid on the conclusion of a health project run by it. Mayor Osella was very interested in action five’s development and approach and was impressed by the level of commitment from Germany. He made particular reference to the parlous living conditions of the rural population in the Goya district and on the valuable cooperation undertaken with the FORO in an attempt to assert these families’ rights.

My participation in the advice sessions with the landless families made a great impression in me. I saw the pitiable living conditions that the mayor mentioned with my own eyes. I asked myself why, in a country like Argentina with enough land, people without the right to own property have to live on the streets because they have been chased from their ancestral homes by their (new) owners after a change of ownership. Some families have been living on unused land for over 20 years. Argentinian law permits the granting of ownership rights – and thus a certificate of ownership – over a hectare of land that one has been living on and using as a vegetable garden for 20 years. Until recently, many landless families were unaware of this legal provision and could therefore not defend themselves when the new owner of a recently sold estate wanted to evict the people living on parts of the land he had just acquired. This is where FORO’s work comes in: petitions are made to the court, negotiations are conducted with the owners and, if necessary, the matter is also disputed in court.

The FORO rents a building (a former priests’ seminary) in Goya, which is over 100 years old and in need of renovation in many places. Last year, the Diocese of Goya arranged for the outside to be painted and some renovation work to be done, leading it to put the rent up as well. 

Although two projects were planned, it has not been possible to implement them due to a partial lack of financial support. The first of these projects involves educating young people so that they can tell other young people in their area about their rights in case they come into conflict with the police. The idea behind this project was born about two years ago, when a young person was brutally beaten during his arrest, later dying of his injuries. The second project is intended to deal with the education of agricultural labourers, who are to be schooled regarding their property rights in particular. The labourers are then to act as multipliers, sharing their knowledge with other landless people. I have given descriptions of both projects to action five, and we will be assessing how we might offer our support.

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