Guernica Land Occupation: The Solution Is Housing

The situation deserves a reaction to the true problem: thousands of people have nowhere to live.

Alongside more than 130 organizations, politicians, lawmakers and rights defenders, we request an open dialogue about the Guernica land occupation. 

Over 2,500 families have migrated to the deserted fields of Guernica on the outskirts of the southern Buenos Aires suburbs to build makeshift homes after losing their own during the pandemic. The extent and the gravity of the situation require a workgroup made up of representatives of the national government from the many departments involved, such as Infrastructure, Social Development and Secretary of State as well as institutions which protect human rights, sucha as the provincial Human Rights Secretariat, the People’s Ombudsperson and the legal representants of those who are charged with illegal occupation.

The purpose of this space must be to solve the housing crisis of those who are occupying the land and suspend evictions to avoid exposing these people to the risks of an intervention performed by security forces and bystanders.

During the last weeks, land occupations have spread all across Argentina and especially in the suburbs of Buenos Aires. The pandemic has worsened the possibility of thousands of families to access decent housing and now the situation has grown critical: this requires urgent and exceptional actions. Every level of government must activate emergency measures to improve the living conditions of those who live on occupied land, on the street, in shantytowns, and in villas. We also need to create a dialog to solve the conflicts that emerge from these extreme living situations to avoid judicialization. The punitive attitude that criminalizes those who take part in land occupation is a simplification of a complex issue that bears heavy consequences: it condemns those who are already disadvantaged by the unequal distribution of resources. Also, it fails to take into account that decades of State abandonment have turned occupation into the only way of accessing land for the lower classes and that occupations are in fact the starting point of hundreds of neighborhoods. Evicting families through State force is the worst option as it adds institutional violence to the list of rights already violated.

For years, the government has silently accepted illegal occupation and systematic norm violations from real estate developers: in the province of Buenos Aires alone, almost 500 gated neighborhoods were built without a permit. Historically this was made possible by refraining from sanctioning these private actors and later tailoring regulations to their needs.

Living on occupied land or in a shantytown is living in extremely precarious conditions. This precarity is now multiplying in tens of thousands of lives. Evicting people today means throwing people into another type of insecurity and vulnerability. The current situation requires solidarity on behalf of society and urgent action from the State.

Click here to read the full letter we presented (in Spanish)

Photo: Guernica: Tierra de lucha y unidad