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CHILE
Mapuche conflict turns deadly
8/31/2009
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Indigenous groups’ fight for land takes community members life.

A state-ordered eviction of an indigenous Mapuche community turned deadly in southern Chile on Aug. 12. Police shot 24-year-old Jaime Mendoza Collío in the back when they attempted to evict residents in the village of Angol, 600 kilometers south of Santiago, lands that had been handed over to forestry companies.

Following failed talks between authorities and indigenous groups, the Mapuche Territorial Alliance — a group of 60 southern Chilean Mapuche communities — announced they would mobilize starting July 23 to recover their historic lands.

The Mapuche communities complained that the government has been unwilling to engage in a productive and fair dialogue with them.

“This process is about the Mapuche people´s decision as a people, but also the stubbornness, the narrow political vision and the reactionary colonial barbarity that this government has had toward us by not wanting to receive or hear us, let alone to look for a solution with us,” said Mijael Queipul, the werken, or spokesman for the Mapuche Territorial Alliance’s leader, Juan Catrillanca Antin.

According to Queipul, the group sent numerous requests to meet with President Michelle Bachelet. Some 200 Mapuche leaders even went to Santiago but they were not granted a meeting with her.

“We have exhausted all avenues to hold a dialogue,” said Queipul.

In 1974, a year after the 1973-90 dictatorship was installed, a decree was issued to promote the forestry industry, providing companies with subsidies if they invested in the sector. The military dictatorship´s land reform ordered the seized indigenous community lands.

Authorities have now threatened to apply a 1984 anti-terrorism law, which has been highly questioned by international rights organizations, to the Mapuche demonstrators.
—Latinamerica Press.


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