Chile's Presidential Campaigns Mum on ‘Mapuche Conflict’

During the past months, Chile's social Web has buzzed as the country's competing political coalitions have vied to win the people's vote for president in the upcoming elections on November 17, 2013. Leading up to Chile's first government-run primary elections on June 30 for the country's two most important political coalitions – New Majority and Alliance for Chile – presidential nominees took on the issues of education, crime, unemployment and gay marriage during several debates in an effort to woo voters.

But notably absent from the debates was any discussion of the unresolved “Mapuche conflict”, the name given to the clashes between the Chilean state and the Mapuche indigenous communities, which have experienced an escalation of deadly violence recently.

The seeming total irrelevance of the conflict in the political scene and in presidential debates has become a source of concern for the public.

The Mapuche indigenous communities have been claiming a series of demands after the return to democracy in 1990, namely jurisdictional autonomy (territorial law) [es], ancestral land recovery and cultural identity. The fight for their ancestral land against  has at times devolved into physical struggles, marked by clashes with police forces.

Website Políticas Públicas (Public Politics) (@cppdi) [es] referred to the absence of the Mapuche issue in the presidential debates of the political coalitions:

Chile. “Mapuche”. A missing topic in the presidential debates of the Concertación (Left) and Right. (“Whatever doesn't make it to front-page news doesn't exist”)

This situation became more notorious as the different candidates presented their concrete proposals.

The live-streamed politics show KenaDieCalle (@Kena dcDieCalle) [es] highlighted:

“It is important to include the Mapuche struggle in the discussion among presidential candidates” says Jorge Arrate on @KenaDieCalle.

Políticas Públicas (@cppdi) [es] also published a picture of the Alliance's former candidate Pablo Longueira, who resigned [es] to his candidacy due to health issues, and questioned:

Elections season: candidates with Mapuche poncho And what are they proposing to fulfill the rights of the indigenous?

Furthermore, actress Blanca Lewin (@blancalewin) [es] quoted Longueira and referred to the law that “strengthens public order guardianship” [es] commonly known as “Hinzpeter Law“, a law that seeks harsher punishments for protesters.

Longueira offered a holiday to celebrate the Mapuche New Year // instead, why don't you refrain from enforcing the Hinzpeter Law?

Caco Saavedra (@Cacosaavedra) [es] shared some photos of the former Alliance candidates, the above-mentioned Pablo Longueira and Andrés Allamand:

Typical of elections season: dressed as a Mapuche and carrying a baby.

And the Mapuche Indigenous account (@MapucheNL) [es] defined “Politicking”:

Politicking is: Lying to the people during the elections, especially when it comes to the Mapuche in Chile

Pedro Cayuqueo (@pcayuqueo) [es], a Mapuche journalist who is currently the director of the news outlets Azkintuwe [es] and Mapuche Times [es] and a columnist in several national and local media, has written constantly about the absence of indigenous issues during the presidential campaign.

In “This hut called Chile” [es], a chronicle published by the national newspaper The Clinic [es] and republished in Azkintuwe, Cayuqueo talks with disappointment about the little importance that's given to the Mapuche people:

Tal vez lo más destacado –y triste a la vez- es que una vez más comprobamos que el tema mapuche no existe en la política nacional. No sin nada quemándose, aclaro. O alguien.

Maybe the most outstanding thing – and the saddest too – is that we once more realize that the Mapuche agenda doesn't exist in national politics. Not unless something is burning, of course. Or someone.

Cayuqueo reasserts this idea through his Twitter account:

Pedro Cayuqueo: “The absence of an indigenous agenda in the presidential campaign has been a complete disappointment”

Foto de Carol Crisosto Cadiz en Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A banner reads “The Mapuche resistance doesn't negotiate.” Photo by Carol Crisosto Cadiz on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The issue was further exacerbated after the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, Ben Emmerson, visited Chile.

At a press conference [es], Emmerson urged the Chilean state to implement a national strategy that addresses the “Mapuche conflict” and to do something about the impunity surrounding the deaths of Mapuche by the military. He also recommended to put an end to the endorsement of the anti-terrorist law because, in his own words: “Chile is not dealing with a significant terrorist threat to its territory”.

The Chilean anti-terrorist law was created during Augusto Pinochet's rule and was widely used during the 17 years of dictatorship. It allows military courts to judge civilians and until recently, it allowed the use of “protected” witnesses whose testimonies were heard and recorded anonymously.

Under the anti-terrorism law, for example, Mapuche activists have faced prison sentences of up to ten years for “arson” or “threats of arson” in land disputes. Human Rights Watch has declared that the “government's recourse to anti-terrorism statutes to deal with organized Mapuche communities has brought restrictions on due process rights that are not justified by the alleged offenses.”

According to Emmerson, the application of the anti-terrorist law “has turned into part of the problem and not the solution”.

The Mapuche Community of Temucuicui [es] from Tirúa county published a statement [es] where they thanked and agreed with Emmerson's vision. Here we underline points 2 and 3:


2. Lo anunciado por el Relator Especial concuerda con lo que la Comunidad Autónoma de Temucuicui ha venido señalando desde hace años: que el uso de la ley antiterrorista sólo pretende criminalizar las justas demandas políticas, culturales y territoriales del Pueblo Nación Mapuche y su aplicación obedece a una práctica de persecución política por parte del Estado Chileno…

3. Cabe señalar que en el territorio mapuche NO HAY TERRORISMO y que los hechos de violencia o delictuales que acusa el Estado de Chile respecto de personas mapuche tienen un trasfondo histórico que nada tiene que ver con temas judiciales. Es el propio estado chileno el que ha generado la violencia mediante la usurpación histórica del territorio mapuche y su reducción a lo que son actualmente las comunidades mapuche.


2. What the Special Rapporteur announced is aligned with what the Temucuicui Autonomous Community has been saying for years: that the enforcement of the anti-terrorist law only serves to criminalize the political, cultural and territorial demands of the Mapuche Nation and its application is actually political persecution by the Chilean State…

3. It is worth noting that there is NO TERRORISM in the Mapuche territory and that the violence and crimes that the State of Chile accuses Mapuches of have a historic background that has nothing to do with judicial affairs. It is the same Chilean state that has generated such violence with the historic encroachment of the Mapuche territory and its reduction to what are now know as Mapuche communities.

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