Chile: Mapuche environmental activist dies

The body of Chilean environmental activist Nicolasa Quintreman, an indigenous Mapuche from the Pehuenche subgroup, was found on Dec. 24 floating in the Lago Ralco reservoir in Alto Bío Bío commune in the central Bío Bío region. Prosecutor Carlos Diaz said there was no evidence of violence. The 74-year-old Quintreman, who was visually impaired, "apparently slipped and fell into the lake," he said. Together with her sister Berta Quintreman, who survived her, Nicolasa Quintreman led a 10-year fight to stop the Endesa power company from building a dam on the Bío Bío river and flooding their ancestral village. The dam was eventually built, producing the reservoir in which Nicolasa Quintreman drowned. But the campaign of peaceful protests that the sisters led in the face of tear gas, rubber bullets and illegal raids by police was an inspiration for the growth of Chile's environmental movement.

"She left a very profound mark," center-left Party for Democracy (PPD) leader Domingo Namuncura said of Quintreman. "This legacy that has since been followed by so many people, it will remain there, imperishable… Relations between indigenous people and the state are now seen differently." (, Jan. 24; Japan Times, Dec. 29, from AP)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, January 19.