Document presented on behalf of
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Sub-commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities.
WORKING GROUP ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
16th Period of Sessions
27-31 July 1998
Item 4 of the Agenda
Review of developments pertaining
to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms
of indigenous people.
Thank you Madam Chair,
Firstly, allow me to congratulate
you, in the name of my organisation, on your re-election as chair of the
Working Group. Your broad experience and commitment to the cause of human
rights guarantees us, as always, a successful conference in this 16th Period
of Sessions. We welcome this opportunity to address the distinguished members
of the Working Group and all of those attending this important assembly.
Madam Chair, the annexation,
through the use of force, of the Mapuche nation's territory by the states
caused all kinds of conflict amongst our people. Now in Chile
the repercussions of this annexation are evident and the present-day Chilean
government still fails to provide a legal solution or historic compensation.
Many Mapuche communities in the so called Region of Araucania demand the
return of those territories appropriated illegally by latifundistas (big
land owners), which are now in the hands of forestry companies; territories
which the Mapuche have never renounced and the Mapuche, today fully aware
of their rights, ask for a fair and equitable solution. Mapuche communties
and timber companies are locked in legal battles over the ownership of
more than 80,000 hectares of land in the VIII and IX regions and many of
these cases have gone to court, but the courts have never ruled in favour
of the affected communities.
The lack of protection for
the property rights of the ancestral lands and the lack of justice has
forced the Mapuche to protest actively, although non-violently. These protests
have been violently suppressed by the Chilean authorities. At the end of
1997 and the beginning of the current year, the authorities introduced
the Law of Internal Security of the State and Anti terrorist Law in five
communes of the Mapuche region; a repressive law of the military regime
which the authorities had previously condemned but now do not hesitate
to apply with all the rigour of the law against the Mapuche. The police
together with antiterrorist forces mounted an impressive police operation,
spreading terror in the peaceful and vulnerable communities of the region.
During October 1997 and into this year 87 people have been arrested among
them women and children from the cities of Temuco,
Malleco, Arauco, Angol and Santiago.
On the 16th of December,
a peaceful demonstration in Santiago
was violently disbanded by the Chilean police who attacked the demonstrators
both physically and verbally through racist insults. Five Mapuches were
injured and 16 arrested.
According to the testimony
of the young Mapuche Juan Carlos Reinao he was held under arrest for 7
days incomunicado (in spite of the Chilean law which stipulates that people
can be held for no more than five days) during which time he suffered inhuman
and degrading treatment.
Madam Chair, in 1994 our
sister Florinda Cheuquepan (who sadly died in 1997) informed the Working
Group with optimism of the advances that Chile had made with regards to
the indigenous legislation through the publication of the law 19,253 of
1993, in which norms of protection, promotion and development of the indigenous
peoples were established. At the same time she warned that there needed
to be a real commitment on the part of the government for the application
and execution of the law and added because we know that however attractive
the letter of the law is, if it does not come into being the words are
meaningless. This is exactly what has happened in Chile
with the indigenous law, norms such as those relating to the introduction
of multicultural and bilingual education, the protection of the ownership
of lands and waters, the prohibition of racial discrimination, among others,
have not only not been implemented but systematically violated by the government
The development and infrastructure
projects, such as the privatisation of water, the construction of highways
and hydroelectric projects are carried out without the consent of the affected
communities. This in clear contravention of the indigenous law which states
in article 13 that indigenous lands, by the demands of national interest,
enjoy the protection of this law and cannot be alienated, seized, taxed
nor acquired by force except amongst indigenous communities or persons
of the same ethnic group. It is important to note the irreversible effects
that the construction of Ralco Dam will have for both the Mapuche-Pewenche
communities and for the environment of the whole region of the Alto Bio
We wish to make it absolutely
clear that we the Mapuche do not oppose development but we want equitable,
sustainable and harmonious development with respect for our rights and
ancestral cultural values and development from which we are not excluded.
Finally we demand the constitutional
recognition of the Mapuche people and the ratification of ILO Convention
169 by the Chilean government.
International Relations Coordinator
Mapuche Inter-regional Council
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