January 28, 2015

Mapuche: Indigenous Peoples Should Be Allowed to Decide About Their Future

A mountain range

Diego Ancalao, a Mapuche from Chile, recently became national Vice-President of left-wing party Izquierda Ciudadana after serving as President of one of its regional branches. He is the first Mapuche to sit in the national direction of a political party in Chile. Ancalao believes in a change of approach both on a national political level and within his community, where younger Mapuche like him should get involved and fight for the possibility to actively contribute to the political life.

Below is the translation of an interview with Mr Ancalao, published by El Ciudadano:

What is the contribution of the younger generation of Mapuche to the discussion of indigenous peoples’ relationship with the State?

Most of the problems that the Mapuche people have to face today derive from two elements: first, the State and the governments following the Concertación and the right-wing parties have been unable to solve the situation of indigenous peoples in Chile. Second, in addition to this mess, Chilean society is alienated from power and there is no political turnover, which has led to unrest in several parts of the country.

Is that turnover necessary also within the Mapuche leadership?

The Mapuche leaders did a great job adapting from the dictatorship to the present day. The challenge nowadays is to renovate the discourse of that time. They have brought progress, but not enough. Nowadays young Mapuche have clear task to resolve our current problems which relate to education, loss of our language, constitutional recognition or political participation and also taking decisions about the future of our people. The leaders of the past already played their part, now the youth must play theirs.

And what is the role of the younger Mapuche generation?

Our role, as young Mapuche people, is to take the inspiration from our predecessors and solve existing issues for our people and for all the other victims of Chile’s corrupt political system, and, to fight for the political participation of indigenous peoples. In the case of the Mapuche, we have to have the possibility to decide our own future.

Why do you want to be a politician?

I believe the moment has come to prove to the country that neither one’s origin, nor one’s name or ancestry can be a limitation for working for the good of the most marginalised and oppressed people of Chile.

Who will be the political vanguard of Chile?

Our party has a new way of seeing the country. We are not a copy of what already exists, nor do we only aim to target the part of the population that is unhappy of the current political system. We do not base our work on a criticism of the various mistakes that the coalitions that administered Chile have made.

Moreover, we do not want to get lost in quarrels with the most orthodox parts of the left since these parties have not managed to renovate themselves, it will be even harder for them to renovate the society in general. To fall into a discussion about who is more left-wing than the other would not make any sense; the country needs more profound discussions.

We need a plan that is good enough to meet the current challenges while including young people as the engine of real change. Otherwise economic inequality will not change; if we keep a model that consumes all that the country produces then I do not think it makes a difference having political participation that allows social actors to also be political actors with decisional power. Having said that, the republican system has not change much since we have become independent. It is for this reason that our party has to be able to give to the country a declaration of principles that calls on all Chileans to think what country they need and that covers the dogmas of both the right and the left. This declaration has to give the country the plan of action that we need and that makes us think about what we want to be and not what we have been. It has to be a vehicle that brings us to equity, social and economic justice, and that opens the doors of development.

We will concentrate our energy on intense organisational work and in studies that outline to society what we need and that invite citizens to participate. This is the reason why a party of this level cannot be based on the charisma of one single person, as many others are. Our party is a political guide, with real content and with a team of leaders around the whole country.

Source: UNPO

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