Chile’s largest indigenous group sees an opportunity in the new constitution


SANTIAGO – hunger strikes. Occupancy of a municipal building. The arson attacks trucks passing through southern Chile.

The long-running conflict between Chile’s largest Indigenous group, Mapuche, and the government over land rights and cultural recognition has escalated in recent weeks to violence caused by the economic pain of the pandemic.

The clashes were condemned by the government. However, the disagreement has increased public support for Mapuche’s demands and put their issue at the top of the political agenda a few weeks before the Chileans decide whether to change their Constitution, and this could be the first opportunity in decades to formally recognize Chilean indigenous communities.

Nearly 13 percent of Chileans – about two million people – in 2017. They were identified as locals at the time of the census. But Chile, unlike some of its neighbors in South America, does not recognize its natives in its Constitution, said Felipe Agüero, a political scientist at the University of Chile.

“They’re not recognized and not even mentioned,” he said of Mapuche.

Gerela Ramírez Lepin, a university student from Curarrehue, the Mapuche community near Chile’s Andean border with Argentina, cannot start drafting a new Constitution that can close this gap.

“It’s a historic opportunity to make sure no one stays,” she said. – I will never get this opportunity again.

The Chilean interior minister said the government was ready to negotiate with Mapuche and condemned the strife in Araucania, the country’s poorest region, as an act of a violent minority.

However, more and more Chileans sympathize with Mapuches and see the conflicts of recent weeks as a moment of decades of fighting for the state over land rights, recognition of their culture, and often brutal tactics by security forces.

“The Mapuchi conflict has become a pressure cooker,” said Verarvica Figueroa Huencho, a visiting Harvard University researcher in Mapuche.

Last week, the government announced it had set up a committee chaired by President Sebastian Piñera to discuss territorial conflicts and social development in Araucanía.

The growing support for the Mapuche affair was evident last year anti-government protests in the capital Santiago and other cities that were strictly restrained militarized police forces.

The Wenufoye flag of Mapuche was everywhere, and protesters erected a rewe, altar type used in Mapuche ceremonies, Plaza Italia in Santiago. Camilo Catrillanca, of Mapuche, whose death was due to the arm of the security forces in 2018, was glued to the walls. Caused outrage, images.

Demonstrations that have been canceled with the increase metro prices in October has grown to a wider one condemning Chile’s inequality and finally paved the way The process of constitutional reform it is scheduled to begin next month after the plebiscite vote.

“It was emotional,” said Ms Ramírez Lepin, who took part in the protests. “For the first time in my life, there was a tangible sense that we were not alone, that the Mapuche connection lasted too long.”

For decades, the government has tended to use an iron fist to lift local claims in Araucania, Mapuche leaders said, prosecuting suspected militants under an anti-terrorism law dating back to the dictatorship of General August Pinochet.

The truck drivers targeted by the recent arson attacks said the government needed to do more to stop Mapuche attackers threatening their vehicles and livelihoods.

But Mapuche executives say their ancestral land, known as Wallmapu, stretching from Chile’s Pacific coast across the Andes to Argentina’s Atlantic coast, is being used by bystanders and the extractive industry, and the government is failing to protect it. They accuse the state of resorting to draconian measures to punish the actions of a small number of recent perpetrators, while removing the peaceful demands of the majority.

When Chile on October 25. Preparing to vote on whether to change the Constitution created 40 years ago during the Pinochet regime, Mapuche sees an opportunity.

The amendment to the charter of the country during the dictatorship was one of the main ones of a huge popular movement that filled the streets of Chile with demonstrators for several months, demanding a fairer distribution of wealth and political power.

The protests were without leaders and extensive, so no specific list of requests was provided. But if a country votes in favor of a draft new Constitution – a process that could take years – the Mapuchs see a shot that reflects their aspirations.

Constitutional reforms in neighboring countries over the past few decades, particularly in Bolivia and Brazil, have led to widespread protection of indigenous rights and developed ways to redress the loss of ancestral lands.

“Chile is far behind the rest of Latin America as the only place where monoculturalism is constitutionally enshrined,” Mr P said. Agüero.

Activists are also urging political leaders to create legislative quotas for Indigenous people, and the Senate is considering allocating seats to Indigenous people in the Constitutional Assembly.

The younger generation of Mapuche, which has become more active in academia and the arts, increasing the visibility of the community.

Mapuche rapper Waikil is a rising star on the country’s music scene, and professional footballers have shown their support by showcasing Wenufoye on ties or in team photos.

“We have seen an expanding literature on the culture and history of Mapuche,” said Fernando Pairican, a historian of Mapuche.

2018 March. After taking up his presidency for the second time, Mr Piñera, a Harvard-educated billionaire, has announced Araucania’s development plan, saying economic growth will bring peace and prosperity to the region.

However, this vision has never materialized as the government has stumbled from crisis to crisis in recent years. Chile has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, which has paralyzed much of the economy.

During the country’s closure, a hunger strike was staged by several Mapuch prisoners, including Celestino Córdova, a spiritual leader serving an 18-year sentence for murder.

Mr Córdova went on hunger strike to reject Chile’s “monocultural” judicial system, which ignores the beliefs of the local population. He ended the strike in mid-August, 107 days after the government agreed to allow him a short visit to a place of spiritual importance when he recovered.

The hunger strike caused visceral reactions. Among the most striking was the confrontation in early August near the municipal building in Curacautín, which was occupied by Mapuche civilians in solidarity with the hunger strikers.

When police officers moved to evict Mapuche, a crowd of locals supported security forces, patched up metal rods and chanted racist ridicule. Some locals burned Mapuche-owned vehicles.

The scene was “soul-destroying,” Ms Ramírez Lepin said, recalling the violence and discrimination that had taken place in the past.

“I am a Mapuche, not a Chilean, and I have been a victim of racism and discrimination all my life, but hearing those chants meant that our conflict turned a corner,” she said.

After the independence of Chile in 1818. Europeans settled in fertile lands that had long been the Mapuche region. When their territory was carved on arable land, some Mapuche were rewarded through a process that they felt was coercive and unfair, but most lost the land without compensation.

Forestry companies, hydropower plants and salmon farms have moved over time to gain access to Araucania’s resources, and the benefits have largely come from the country’s economic elite, Mapuche says.

The new Constitution could help achieve Mapuche’s rights to land and respect for their culture, which they have demanded for decades. But that would only be a first step towards real inclusion, Ms Ramírez Lepin said.

“The state simply does not understand what we want,” said Ms Ramírez Lepin. “You can’t resolve the conflict by throwing money at us. You can’t import, export or trade – just enjoy what you have and live in peace. “

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