Gabriel Boric, a young leftist lawmaker and former student protest leader from Punta Arenas, is celebrating his victory over far-right rival José Antonio Kast in Chile’s Dec. 19 presidential run-off election. His declaration “La esperanza le ganó al miedo“ (Hope triumphed over fear) has gone viral over social media in the South American country. He was the candidate of Apruebo Dignidad (Approve Dignity), a new coalition that came together to press for progressive reforms under Chile’s new constitution. The constitutional redrafting process was set in motion by incumbent President Sebastian Piñera in response to a wave of popular protest two years ago. (TeleSur, NYT, The Wire, Al Jazeera)
But Boric, who is to take office in March, will face an immediate challenge from the mounting armed resistance movement of the Mapuche indigenous people in Chile’s south. Following his electoral victory, the group Lavkenche Mapuche Resistance (RML) issued a statement claiming responsibility for 35 arson attacks on trucks and equipment of timber and mining operations on traditional indigenous lands in Arauco province, Biobío region. The statement said, in Spanish studded with Mapuche words: “El weichan no parará. Ni con Piñera ni con Boric.” (The struggle will not cease. Neither with Piñera nor with Boric.) (MercoPress, Pauta)
A state of emergency in four provinces of Biobío and La Araucania regions has been extended by Piñera’s government every two weeks since it was first imposed in October. On Dec. 24, a court in Cañete, Arauco province, sentenced eight Mapuche men to 20 years in prison in the December 2019 killing of a local farmer in a land dispute. The anticipated sentence prompted the Dec. 22 communique from RML, pledging to “punish the racist oppressor state.” That same day, a contracted bush plane in the service of the regional timber and mining company Forestal Mininco was shot at while flying over Lago Lanalhue, Arauco, damaging one wing. (Al Jazeera, El Dinamo, Televisión Universidad de Concepción, El Desconcierto)
Hope for de-escalation may lie in the constitutional reform process, which is to be led by a Mapuche linguist and academic, Elisa Loncón. She was voted as president of the Constitutional Convention in July by delegates who had themselves been chosen in a popular election in May that saw a sweep for progressive forces.
The 155-member Convention must approve a new charter by a two-thirds majority, before it is put before the voters next year. It is to be Chile’s first new constitution since the long right-wing dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. The current Pinochet-era constitution is one of the few in Latin America with no provision for the autonomy of indigenous peoples. (The Conversation, MeroPress, BBC News)
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