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Document presented on behalf of Mapuche Inter-regional Council

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 of Chile and Argentina 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 itself.

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 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.

Thank you,

Reynaldo Mariqueo
International Relations Coordinator
Mapuche Inter-regional Council

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