Mapuche

Argentina: protests over 'disappeared' activist

Tens of thousands of Argentines held protests across the country Sept. 1, demanding answers one month after the disappearance of an indigenous rights activist. Demonstrators held photos of Santiago Maldonado, who was last seen when border police evicted a group of indigenous Mapuche from lands in the southern Patagonia region owned by Italian clothing company Benetton. In Buenos Aires, protesters converged on the Plaza de Mayo, iconic for its role in the struggle to demand justice for the "disappeared" under the military dictatorship. The Buenos Aires march ended in running street battles with the riot police.

Argentina: Mapuche land struggle terrorist-baited

Authorities in Argentina's Chubut province accused Mapuche indigenous activists of being "terrorists" after a clash with police at a protest encampment on usurped lands. Two Mapuche activists were wounded—one by a bullet—when provincial police and the Gendarmería were sent in to clear the camp, which had been dubbed "Pu Lof en Resistencia," on traditional Mapuche lands now held by the Italian company Benetton in Cushamen municipality. In the aftermath, Chubut Gov. Mario Das Neves called the organizers "a group of violent ones who do not respect the law, nor the Fatherland, nor the flag, and constantly attack anyone." His government minister, Pablo Durán, accused the organizers, known as Mapuche Ancestral Resistance (RAM), of being "terrorists," saying that the situation "has surpassed the limits of what we can tolerate." Local press ran speculation of RAM links to Colombia's FARC guerillas. (Perfil, Pagina12, Cronica, Jan. 12; Perfil, Jan. 8)

Mapuche militants burn machinery at hydro site

Members of Mapuche Ancestral Resistance in the pre-dawn hours of July 19 burned two excavator machines belonging to British business magnate Joe Lewis, that were being used to build a hydroelectric dam at El Bolsón, in Argentina's Río Negro province. The dam is planned for the headwaters of the Río Escondido, on Lewis' private property, and is being built in cooperation with Edenor electric company, of which Lewis is the biggest stock owner. The militants left leaflets headlined "Lewis Out of Patagonia," and listing their demands for the release of political prisoners and the eviction of oil, mining and hydroelectric companies from Mapuche traditional territories. Liberty was especially demanded for Facundo Jones Huala, who was arrested in May and is being held pending an extradition request by Chile, where he is wanted for "land usurpation." Mapuche territory is bisected by the Chile-Argentina border. (The Bubble, Buenos Aires, Clarín, Buenos Aires, July 19; Crónica, Chubut, June 29)

Chile: outrage over repression of Mapuche protest

Mapuche indigenous leaders in Chile are expressing outrage over the violent eviction of protesters who were occupying a government office in the southern region of Araucania last month. Some 40 local Mapuche residents had been occupying the offices of the National Indigenous Development Corporation (CONADI) in Temuco for three weeks when the building was stormed by troops of the Carabineros militarized police force Sept. 7. "The security forces, without warning, began immediately firing tear gas inside the building, even though they knew there were women and children inside," Mapuche leader Victor Queipul told Chilean media outlets. "These events...clearly show the inability of the government to engage in dialogue over the situation in La Araucania." The protest occupation was launched to demand resistution of usurped lands, and "demilitarization" of the Mapuche community of Ercilla, Malleco province, which has been occupied by police troops for months. (UNPO, Sept. 10; TeleSur, Sept. 8; PubliMetro, Biobio, 24Horas, Chile, Sept. 7)

Argentina: Mapuche blockade oil fields —again

Argentina's state firm YPF was at the point of completely shutting down oil and gas production throughout Neuquén province after indigenous Mapuche residents blocked access to to wells for 48 hours to press demands over territorial rights. The blockades were lifted Sept. 4 after a hectic days of dialogue with Mapche leaders. The blockade was undertaken by the Mapuche community of Paynemil to press authorities to complete a demarcation of traditional indigenous lands in the area, as mandated by National Law 26.160 of 2006 but still not carried out. Hundreds of wells at the Loma La Lata, Rincón del Mangrullo and Loma Campana fields were affected by the action, supposedly costing YPF millions of dollars. July saw similar protests, when the Loma Campana field was blocked by members of the Mapuche community of Campo Maripe. The issue has been outstanding for years, but the new blockades marked the first time that hydrocarbon production throughout the province was affected. (InfoBae, InfoBaeCronista, Sept. 4; Cronista, Diario Norte, July 30)

Chile: Mapuche continue drive for land

A group of about 70 indigenous Chilean Mapuche from the José Llancao community peacefully occupied a section of a government research farm in Vilcún commune in Cautín province, in the central Araucanía region, to further their demand for 60 hectares of land that they say belong to the community. The Carillanca Farming Research Center (INIA Carillanca) started as a private estate but has been operated as a research facility under the Agriculture Ministry for the past 50 years. According to the community's werken (spokesperson), Juan Alguilera Esquivel, the residents have been trying to reclaim the 60 hectares, which they say were usurped illegally by the owner of the private estate, for more than 20 years. The Mapuche, Chile's largest indigenous group, have been using land occupations since the 1990s in a campaign to regain land they consider ancestral territory. Local estate owners are strongly opposed to the community's claims on the research facility. "Not one meter should be sold," said Marcelo Zirotti, president of the Agricultural Development Society (SOFO). If the government gives up any land, "they'll be telling us, the farmers, that we should close up and go elsewhere." (Radio Bío Bío, Chile, Feb. 6; El Ciudadano, Chile, Feb. 6)

Chile: local Mapuche leader murdered

Victor Manuel Mendoza Collío, the werken (spokesperson) for an indigenous Mapuche community in the southern Chilean region of Araucanía, was shot dead the night of Oct. 29 by two unidentified men. A friend of the family said the assailants came to Mendoza Collío's home in the Requem Pillán community in Ercilla commune, Malleco province, and "killed him at the doorway of his house and in front of his six-year-old little girl, with a shotgun." According to preliminary information the authorities gave to the media, the killing was the result of a dispute within the Mapuche community; community members themselves strongly denied the authorities' version.

Argentina: new energy law seeks foreign capital

Argentina's Chamber of Deputies voted 130-116, with one abstention, on Oct. 30 to pass a new version of a 1967 federal law governing the exploitation of oil and gas resources. The controversial new version had already been approved by the Senate; it will become law once it is signed and published in the Official Gazette by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Under the revised law—which was pushed through the National Congress by the Front for Victory (FPV), President Fernández's center-left faction of the Peronist Justicialist Party (PJ)—concessions will be granted to private companies for 25 years for conventional oil drilling, for 30 years for offshore drilling and for 35 years for unconventional techniques like hydrofracking. The royalties the companies pay on oil and gas sales will be limited to 12% for the federal government and to just 3% for the oil-producing provinces, which technically control the resources. Private companies can also benefit from a provision letting them sell 20% of their production in international markets without paying export taxes if they invest $250 million over a three-year period.

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