Segments in this Video

Mendoza Case (02:44)


Matanza-Riachuelo basin has been polluted for over 200 years. In 2004, residents brought a lawsuit against the city, the province, the national government, 14 municipalities, and 44 companies. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

Mendoza Case Origin (04:43)

Daniel Sallaberry discusses the legal implications of the case based in Argentine law. He cites Article 41, the General Law of the Environment passed in 1994, and newspaper reports on toxic effluent in the Riachuelo River and its health effects.

Sociological Implications (02:54)

Sallaberry discusses Beatriz Mendoza's physical condition as a result of contamination and Villa Inflamable; there were no efforts to address the problems. He contacted several families and began the groundwork for filing a lawsuit. He and his team drafted a complaint and submitted it in July 2007.

How was the Lawsuit Financed? (05:09)

The team working on the Mendoza Case invested personal resources to bring the class action before the Supreme Court. Sallaberry considers the possibility of the court awarding damages, the defendants paying attorney fees, and the prejudice against plaintiffs.

Declaration vs. Action (04:17)

Sallaberry describes two realities of environmental law and environmental practice. He believes the incorporation of a more transparent process is an important element of the court's judgement. The court established the Comprehensive Plan for Environmental Remediation; target benchmarks were not met.

Joint Liability (03:15)

The general environmental law has a provision for polluters who cause environmental damage; the polluter's first obligation is repairing the damage. Sallaberry discusses government omission and the failure of monitoring. After 10 years of litigation, the court issued judgement against the government for monitoring failure; the companies have not been judged liable.

Health Aspect of the Mendoza Case (02:39)

The Supreme Court sent the individual damage allegations to the lower courts for adjudication; the class action was separate from health claims. Sallaberry discusses anticipatory relief; the case is not close to being finished.

Lower Court Cases (02:44)

The division between collective and individual damages worsened the victims' situation. Sallaberry discusses the introduction of environmental law and "the ownership of nature."

Legal Rights for Natural Objects? (02:07)

The law does not specifically define the rights but does include the "generation of cultures;" they are recognized in practice. Sallaberry reflects on the lack of protest for the condition of the Matanza-Riachuelo River. Before the Mendoza Case, 39 agencies had some responsibility for water issues; they defended their interests.

Victim Claims (01:31)

The individual clients in the Mendoza Case have addressed their health issues as best they can; but they are yet to be recognized in the courts. Sallaberry discusses the hurdles the victims face.

Erasing Jurisprudence? (03:31)

In the environmental case, the Supreme Court deemed the Matanza-Riachuelo basin "one thing," but it is not;" that does not apply to the health cases. Sallaberry compares the Mendoza Case to the Chevron/Ecuador case. He reflects on taking action against environmental problems.

Improving the Area (01:08)

The Matanza-Riachuelo basin has improved in the six years since the Mendoza Case decision, but more issues remain. Argentina recognizes that its citizens have a right to a healthy environment.

Credits: Putting Argentina’s Right to a Healthy Environment to the Test: Daniel Sallaberry (00:16)

Credits: Putting Argentina’s Right to a Healthy Environment to the Test: Daniel Sallaberry

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Putting Argentina’s Right to a Healthy Environment to the Test: Daniel Sallaberry

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3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



This episode of The Green Interview features Daniel Sallaberry, the lawyer behind the “Mendoza Case,” a lawsuit filed in 2004 by the residents of an impoverished neighborhood bordering the Riachuelo River in Buenos Aires, Argentina. For more than 200 years the river has been horribly polluted, carrying the run-off from tanneries, oil refineries, chemical industries, shanty-towns and farmlands. The lawsuit was brought against the city, the province, the national government, fourteen upstream municipalities and 44 private companies, alleging that these organizations had damaged their health and infringed their right to a healthy environment – and on July 8, 2008, after four years of hearings the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision in which it ruled that government and industry had indeed infringed the residents' right to a healthy environment, and were obliged to repair the damage. Sallaberry discusses the lawsuit, the challenges that remain and how it’s putting Argentina’s laws to the test.

Length: 38 minutes

Item#: BVL114726

ISBN: 978-1-68272-814-7

Copyright date: ©2014

Closed Captioned

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