Chile: Mapuche step up resistance, as UN urges government to stop repression

Mapuche step up struggle for land and water

July 30, 2013. Source: World War 4 Report

Photo: Caroline/Intercontinental Cry

Photo: Caroline/Intercontinental Cry

Indigenous communities in Arauco province in Chile’s central Biobío region have announced plans for a march on Aug. 2 to protest a proposal before the National Congress to extend Forestry Decree 701 for another 20 years. Community residents, who belong to the Mapuche group, Chile’s largest ethnicity, say the forestry laws have allowed timber companies to take over traditional Mapuche lands starting in 1974 under the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The most important of these companies are Arauco (Celulosa Arauco y Constitución), largely owned by the Angelini family, and Forestal Mininco, controlled by the Matte family. According to Mapuche activists, there is little chance that the forestry proposal will be defeated, since many of the congressional candidates from Mapuche areas in the upcoming Nov. 17 elections are being financed by these two powerful families. (El Cuidadano, Chile, July 27)

Mapuche groups have been using militant protests and land occupations since the 1990s in their push to regain the territories they claim. On July 24 the Mapuche Territorial Alliance’s blog announced a new series of land occupations that the group said the media were ignoring. The blog reported that various communities in Cautín province in the southern region of La Araucanía had taken possession of estates since the weekend of July 19 near Temuco, the regional capital, and in the area of the construction for a new Quepe airport. On July 24 the autonomous community of Temucuicui—which was subject to a violent police raid in July 2012—announced plans to occupy the La Romana and Montenegro estates and several nearby areas under the control of timber companies. (Alianza Territorial Mapuche blog, July 24)

Mapuche activists are also targeting salmon farming in Mapuche areas. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has suspended the importation of salmon produced in Chile by the Norwegian multinational Marine Harvest; on June 5 the US agency found traces of crystal violet, a fungicide with carcinogenic effects, in a batch of the company’s salmon farmed in Chile. Economy, Development and Tourism Minister Félix de Vicente insisted on July 23 that this was “an isolated unique case.“ Marine Harvest facilities “have not used this product for a couple of years, therefore, it should not be a cause for concern,“ he said. But Mapuche activists want the government to investigate the extent to which crystal violet and other dangerous chemicals may have been used in the salmon farming operations and whether the chemicals have polluted water Mapuche farmers use for irrigation.

When Marine Harvest first started the farming in Lago Ranco, in Ranco province in Los Ríos region, local Mapuche communities blocked a road and the facility’s entrance in an unsuccessful effort to stop the company. The Mapuche say that Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO) required the Chilean government to hold a consultation with them before authorizing the salmon farming. (FIS, Fish Info & Services, July 23; Adital, Brazil, July 24)

UN expert urges Chile to stop using anti-terror law against Mapuche people

August 5, 2013. Source: World War 4 Report

The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism on July 29 urged Chilean authorities to refrain from applying anti-terrorism legislation that directly impacts the Mapuche indigenous people. Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson made his first official visit to Chile, finding that “the anti-terrorism legislation has been disproportionately and unfairly applied against Mapuche defendants, and has been implemented without a coherent policy for distinguishing those cases that meet the threshold test for an act of terrorism and those that do not.” Referring to Chile’s 1984 anti-terrorism law, Emmerson addressed the impact that the law has on indigenous land protests. His statement stressed the need for an end to impunity for the crimes committed during violent land protests, adding that the victims of such violence should also have their rights adequately protected.

In 2009, Chilean Subsecretary of the Interior Patricio Rosende announced that Chile would use the 1984 anti-terrorism law to prosecute indigenous Mapuches for attacks allegedly committed in the southern region of Araucania. The Chilean government declared that it would apply the measure to criminals regardless of their ethnicity, and that only a minority of Mapuches were responsible for the attacks in an attempt to disturb negotiations over Mapuche demands. The government has been widely criticized by human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and the UN Human Rights Council, which maintain that the anti-terrorism law unfairly singles out Mapuches, who are Chile’s largest minority, accounting for an estimated 4 to 6 percent of the country’s population. The law dates from the Augusto Pinochet regime and abrogates due process rights for the accused—for instance, with a longer wait before arraignment and access to a lawyer once charged. The law also allows the imposition of sanctions up to three times what is established by the Chilean Criminal Code, and considers that acts perpetrated with the general intent of causing fear in the general population or imposing demands upon authorities have a terrorist intent.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Corporate Globalization, Indigenous Peoples, Industrial agriculture, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean

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