the Mapuche conflict, a hot brick that the next government will inherit

No one yet knows who will assume the presidency of Chile when Sebastián Piñera’s term ends in March of next year. But it is clear that whoever takes the reins will have a list of pressing issues to tackle.

Among them, the conflict with the Mapuches in the south of the country, which escalated in recent months with violence that left several dead and forced to decree a militarization that could extend longer than expected.

The violence that was unleashed in Araucanía, in the south of the country, and that led the Piñera government to deploy military personnel in the region, was one of the arguments of the extreme right candidate José Antonio Kast to defend his policy of “hard hand ”Against” terrorism “in the south, crime and vandalism.

And although other candidates did not make this issue an axis of their campaigns, they will not be able to turn their back on it in an eventual second-round scenario.

 

Mapuche families at the funeral of a young man shot by the police last July, in Lumaco, in the Araucanía area of ​​Chile. Photo: REUTERS

Disputed lands

The Mapuche people are the largest indigenous ethnic group in Chile and claim “ancestral lands” that were forcibly occupied by the Chilean State at the end of the 19th century and that now belong mostly to forestry companies, owned by the most powerful economic groups. of the country (and of South America).

Several areas of the south of the country were the scene in recent months of attacks and fires on agricultural machinery and properties, roadblocks and shootings that ended with at least two deaths.

And, since the murder of the young Mapuche Camilo Catrillanca in 2018 at the hands of the Carabineros (the militarized Police), trust between communities and institutions has been broken.

Since last month, the conflict has worsened with new fires to properties and vehicles by indigenous groups, and a strong reaction from the security forces.

The clashes left two Mapuche dead and a climate of extreme tension. So much so that Piñera decreed on October 12 a state of exception and the militarization of the Araucanía area.

President Sebastián Piñera decreed a state of exception and sent soldiers to control the Araucanía area, in southern Chile. Photo: EFE President Sebastián Piñera decreed a state of exception and sent soldiers to control the Araucanía area, in southern Chile. Photo: EFE

Since then, more than 2,000 members of the Armed Forces have been deployed there to reinforce the task of the police. But the conflict does not subside and, according to political analysts, other measures will have to be taken to prevent the situation from ending in new confrontations and repression.

For many analysts, it will be key that the future government establishes some dialogue channel.

“No government so far has been able to solve the Mapuche conflict. It is not an easy problem, without a doubt, but there was no desire of the politicians to put an end to it ”, interprets the political scientist Kenneth Bunker, director of the Tres Quintos consultancy.

As explained to Clarion, sending more military personnel does not solve the problem. “What is needed there are extraordinary measures,” he emphasizes. But for now no one seems to be very clear about what those actions would be.

Some analysts bet some chips on the Constituent Convention that since the middle of this year has been drafting a new Magna Carta, to replace the one in force today, inherited from the Augusto Pinochet regime.

The possibility of declaring “multinationality” that gives more visibility and prominence to indigenous peoples could be a solution.

The father of the Mapuche Camilo Catrillanca, murdered in 2018, speaks with a policeman during a militarized police operation last January. Photo: EFE The father of the Mapuche Camilo Catrillanca, murdered in 2018, speaks with a policeman during a militarized police operation last January. Photo: EFE

Within the Mapuche movement there is a debate on how to achieve territorial autonomy. Some, represented in the Constitutional Convention, call to define the character of the Chilean State as plurinational, a step that would give recognition denied for more than 200 years to the native peoples who inhabited the territory centuries ago, said analysts consulted by the EFE agency.

Others are committed to a “struggle for national liberation”, among them the Coordinadora Arauco Malleco (CAM), one of the fundamental organizations for the Mapuche mobilization since the 1990s and which has claimed many violent attacks in the area.

Although the CAM spokesperson, Héctor Llaitul, repeatedly expressed his willingness to dialogue, other more radical organizations reject it.

To dialogue, guarantees must be given, said Verónica Figueroa Huencho, an academic at the Institute of Public Affairs of the University of Chile, to the EFE agency, and stressed the need to demilitarize the Mapuche territory.

According to Figueroa, also a Mapuche, the constituent space “becomes a guarantee of recognition”, but it does not imply an “automatic” dialogue if there is no support from the authorities.

This will be another of the great challenges of the next government. But there is still a long way to go before the future president takes office. Until then, uncertainty and fear of more violence prevail.

Santiago, special envoy

By Editor

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