Opinion of the Instituto de Estudios Indigenas
Temuco, November 12, 2002
Opinion of the Instituto de Estudios Indigenas
(Institute of Indigenous Studies), from the Universidad de La Frontera,
in relation to the death of Edmundo Alex Lemun Saavedra, a member of the
Montutui Mapu Community, in the Aguas Buenas Sector, in the Ercilla Commune,
At dawn this morning, November 12, 2002, a Mapuche
youth named Edmundo Alex Lemun Saavedra died in the city of Temuco. Edmundo
was 17 years old, and resided in the Montutui Mapu Community, Ercilla Commune,
IX Region of Chile (Araucanía).
After days of agony, Edmundo died as a consequence
of a bullet that hit him in the cerebrum, in the middle of a violent evacuation
performed by the Carabineros (police) from Santa Elisa on the property
of the foresting company Mininco, which was occupied by the Mapuche in
the afternoon of the 7th of November, 2002, five days earlier.
The Public Ministry has designated a special public
prosecutor to investigate the facts and the ascertain the origin of the
shot. The Carabineros deny their responsibility in the death of Edmundo
Lemún. According to the police, if the Mapuche had not used weapons
(rocks), the Carabineros would have used steel pellets, and not bullets
of a greater caliber like the one that killed Edmundo.
According to his relatives and friends, the shot
that hit Edmundo Lemun was deliberate, and not an accident. Edmundo became
the subject of a police pursuit because of his participation in the Mapuche
movement. The shot was fired from a distance of no more than 20 to 30 meters,
a fact that will have been corroborated by the autopsy performed today.
We do not believe that it is our place to make
a declaration of who is to blame for this lamentable fact. The determination
of those responsible, as it is their sanction, corresponds with justice.
Nevertheless, we would like to make known the frequency of complaints that
our Institute receives in respect to the situations of disproportionate
force used against the Mapuche by the police force in the conflicts that
have arisen in the south of our country between the Mapuche, and the foresting
industries, as well as other industries in the area.
It seems to us that the situation that has arisen
in recent times in our region is evidence of a manifested discrimination
against the Mapuche people on the part of those who have the job of maintaining
public order and protecting the rights of the people. We believe that the
conflicts that exist should be judged fairly and equally by the institutions
that exist to protect the rights of the citizens.
Sadly, we state that many of these situations that
involve the abuse of power and violence against the Mapuche are never clarified,
and those responsible are never brought to justice.
Along with explaining our condemnation of situations
in which power and impunity are abused, we would like to exhibit our worry
of the future implications that could arise from the death of Edmundo Lemun,
who was the first Mapuche to die in the territorial conflicts earlier mentioned.
We believe that from the perspective of the Mapuche, this fact displays
the incapacity of the state, and of Chilean society, to listen and try
to respect the Mapuche´s wishes to recover that which has historically
been theirs, as well as their desire to secure their own cultural development
as a people.
We estimate that in light of the current, it is
foreseeable that situations like this are going to continue to occur, creating
a spiral of violence that is extremely detrimental for any type of peaceful
coexistence between the mixed ethnicity of the people in this region of
the country. We believe that this is a very urgent problem that needs to
be resolved to avoid another tragedy like that of Edmundo Lemun. It would
involve looking at the uneasy relationship between the Mapuche, the state,
and the Chilean society, repairing injustices that have been committed
in the past, and creating opportunities for an open dialogue to exist in
We hope that this situation is resolved in a professional
and truthful manner, and that the facts are determined and sanctions are
given to anyone responsible. We hope that the authorities revise the laws
and policies regarding the indigenous people of our country, as those that
exist are absolutely insufficient, in a manner that makes steps towards
repairing the damage that has been done to the Mapuche by the state.
Finally, we hope that efforts are made by the foresting
industry, and other industries that are present in this part of the country
to show some sort of possibility for a open dialogue with the original
inhabitants of the territory that they are occupying, and put an end to
the absolute denial and exclusion of the Mapuche, while possibly considering
making a space for everyone that lives in our country.
INSTITUTO DE ESTUDIOS INDIGENAS
UNIVERSIDAD DE LA FRONTERA