Latin America: Día de la Raza brings marches and apologies

Representatives of social and humanitarian organizations in Chile marked 518 years since the arrival of European colonizer Christopher Columbus by marching on Oct. 12 in the southern Araucanía region in solidarity with Chile’s indigenous peoples. About 5,000 people had held a similar solidarity march in Santiago the day before. The marches had a special focus on the situation of the Mapuche, Chile’s largest indigenous group, and a liquids-only hunger strike by Mapuche prisoners that ended on Oct. 8 after more than 80 days. A group of the prisoners released a communiqué on Oct. 12 calling on the government to fulfill the promises it made to them in negotiations to end the hunger strike. “A new process of struggle will begin,” the prisoners wrote. (Prensa Latina, Oct. 12)

In Bolivia grassroots organizations held a march on Oct. 12 in La Paz they said was intended to increase awareness about the defense of the rights of Mother Earth.

Thousands of indigenous protesters and a large group of public university students marched in Bogotá, Colombia, for four hours on Oct. 12. The minga (indigenous mobilization) was organized by the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia together with various organizations from the social movements.

In Guatemala hundreds of campesinos and indigenous people marked Oct. 12 by protesting in front of the Supreme Court of Justice, the National Congress and the Presidential Residence in Guatemala City. The National Coordinating Committee of Campesino Organizations charged in a communiqué that the indigenous people of Guatemala, who represent 42% of the country’s 14 million inhabitants, continue to be marginalized and that only “the mechanisms of imposition have changed.”

In El Salvador, president Mauricio Funes offered apologies in the name of the state to the country’s indigenous people for the “persecution and extermination” to which they were subjected. Funes, from the leftist Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation (FMLN), observed the anniversary by opening a national indigenous congress which was to discuss the problems indigenous groups face and ways to solve them with the aid of the government. (La Jornada, Mexico, Oct. 13, from AFP, Prensa Latina)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 17.

See our coverage of last year’s Oct. 12 mobilization.