From the November-December 2021 issue of News & Letters
by Eugene Walker
In October, right-wing Chilean President Sebastián Piñera twice decreed a 15-day state of emergency for several provinces in the south—areas where the Mapuche people, in conflict with the Chilean State, are seeking to recover their ancestral lands and obtain full autonomy. The decree directs the armed forces to provide support for policing and surveillance of the Mapuche people.
The Mapuches, who number more than two million people, are more than 10% percent of Chile’s population. Despite this, they are not recognized as an original (Indigenous) people, but rather as an ethnic group subject to racism and exclusion.
In the first months of 2021, five times more farms were occupied by the Mapuche than the previous year, and their mobilization is intensifying. The state of emergency aims to stop them from recovering their land.
A HISTORY OF STRUGGLE
This is hardly the first time that the government has used force against the Mapuche. Their territories were first invaded in the mid-19th century by military troops who slaughtered them and seized their lands.
Their lands were then handed over at the beginning of the 20th century to European settlers, who formed large estates. After the Pinochet military coup of 1973, these estates became the property of forest conglomerates that have exploited them piecemeal.
In response to this “state of emergency,” Mapuche communities have been meeting and issuing their own declarations:
Autonomous Mapuche Community of the Territory of Temucuicui:
“Today will be a historic day of the racist and terrorist actions of the Chilean State and the government of the criminal Sebastián Piñera. It is precisely the day that they have created a continuity and renewal of the genocide and destruction of the environment that the racist culture labeled ‘discovery of America.’ They declared an offensive against the Mapuche people through declaring a ‘state of emergency’ that seeks the use of the armed forces for a period of 15 days to increase and strengthen the militarization, repression and containment of the Mapuche resistance. . . .
“We are in the presence of a colonial State with all its racist structure. It acquiesces to the pressures of large landowners and businessmen who maintain their economic power over our ancestral territory, and who have destroyed our Wallmapu [the Mapuche territory] and brought the intervention of the armed forces. Today all procedural and constitutional guarantees are available to the police criminals, the same ones who fabricated evidence in Operation Hurricane [a 2017 police operation branding the Mapuche as terrorist, which was discredited by the Public Ministry], institutions that together with their generals have stolen public resources, and who enjoy all freedoms. On the other hand, we Mapuche are subject to their criminal law, that is, we are guilty for the mere fact of being Mapuche. . . .
“We will continue denouncing and resisting to bring life back to our Wallmapu, we will protect the itxofi mogen as entrusted to us by our ancestors and we call on all territories in struggle and resistance to remain standing and never on their knees. Our people have fought since the arrival of the Spanish thieves. Today will be no exception. All that may result from this, as well as the victims that may fall, will be the sole responsibility of the Chilean state. For this reason, we will maintain our territorial control and we will continue recovery of our territory, even if it costs our lives.
“We are all the Mapuche people. Denounce militarization! Military out of Mapuche territory!”