Proyecto de Documentación Ñuke Mapu


Press Release

Participants in a Mapuche Religious Ceremony are Imprisoned

Mapuche International Link
6 Lodge Street,
Bristol BS1 5 LR,
Tel/Fax: 44-117-9279391

The Chilean authorities have infringed the religious rights of the Mapuche and their freedom of movement in ancestral lands. Police have detained 18 people after their participation in a nguillatun, a religious ceremony of great sanctity which is an expression of their ancestral spiritual beliefs.

Mapuche International Link, an organisation which consists of Mapuches from Chile and Argentina who are resident in Europe, wishes to express its condemnation of the indiscriminate repression by the Chilean government of the Mapuche community, and  in particular of the cowardly offences committed against those attending a nguillatun.

On 14 March 1999, after the conclusion of the nguillatun at 6 pm in the Ranquihue area of Tirua commune, about 200 people were intercepted by the police as they were peacefully leaving.  The police selectively detained 18 individuals, among them Jeannette Paillan from the Lulu Mawhida Centre; Elias Paillan, radio journalist; Sergio Bravo, a French photographer and film maker; Pablo Ortega, a lawyer; and Clara Antinao, a language teacher. All these people had equipment and personal possessions confiscated by the police. The following were also detained: Ricardo Tapia Huenulef, Ramón Rodriguez, Fresia Paillal, José Paillal, Ruth Curiqueo, Aníbal Salazar Huichacura, Miguel Tapia, Gastón Antileo, Abelardo Antiman, Rolando Millante, Luis Mariñan, Patricia Troncoso, Jose Mariñan. This was not an isolated violation. Mapuche leaders have denounced the police and security services for constant surveillance of their activities, detentions, threatening behaviour and falsification of criminal charges, all with the clear purpose of harassment and intimidation.  The right of Mapuche to free movement within their ancestral land is now being seriously challenged.  This is an attempt to break bonds of brotherhood and solidarity which are traditionally maintained amongst the Mapuche people. Jeannette Paillan had already been subjected to abuse and intimidation. On 24 October 1998, while she was filming conflict between the forestry company Arauco and the Mapuche community Fren Mariqueo of Cuyinco, Eighth Region, she was assaulted by an individual in plain-clothes, who snatched her camera from her in the presence of the police. In another incident, on 8 January 1999, Clara Antinao was walking in traditional Mapuche clothes in Morande Street, Santiago (capital city of Chile) when she was suddenly detained by the police, who told her that she must immediately leave the area, as persons dressed in mapuche clothing were not permited in the surrounding area of La Moneda (the presidential palace). On 19 February 1999, around 3.30am, 300 police and 100 private guards from the forestry company Mininco violently invaded the community of Temulemu, Traiguen district. The operation aimed at causing maximum terror and inflicting all kinds of attrocities on the 25 community members. Police officers proceeded to destroy doors, windows and household property, without search warrants. There was no resistance from the Mapuche residents. During the raid, the Chilean police, as in previous times of military occupation, stole animals and money, as well as other goods, from members of the community. Six Mapuche were seriously injured, among them the Machi María Claudina Ancamilla (Mapuche spiritual leader) from the settlement of Temulemu and the Lonko Pascual Pichun Paillao (Mapuche chief) from the Antonio Ñiripil community, who both had to be hospitalised. 15 people were detained, among them 4 children: Henri Pichun (11 years old), Juan Pichun (14), Luis Inostrosa (14) and Manuel Nahuel (15) as well as Luis Arnold Fuentes, a French guest of the community. The police operation (according to the Chilean authorities) was so 'irregular' that they were obliged to accede to the demands of the affected communities. For example that the military prosecutor investigate the facts with the objective of establishing the truth and countering the official version which accused the Mapuche of being the initiators of the aggression.

These attacks took place in the ancestral territory of the Mapuche nation, which is the subject of legal dispute, between the Temulemu community and the forestry company Mininco. In 1930 the Indian Tribunal ruled that the community were the legitimate owners of the territory but the order was not put into action because of  threats from the landowners, lack of political will by the regional authorities and the corruption and negative attitude of the local police. Confiscation of Mapuche lands grew during the military dictatorship of General Pinochet, whose policies were aimed at the assimilation and extermination of the Mapuche community. The process of reclamation of Mapuche lands and historic reparation initiated during the time of agrarian reform under the socialist government of Salvador Allende (at the beginning of the 1970s) was reversed by the Military government, who forced their surrender or sold the land at low price to speculators whose only motivation was the obtaining of quick and easy profit. This deepend already existing conflicts between the Mapuche and large landowners.

On the same day (19 February 1999) in another area of Mapuche territory, Palmucho, Alto Bio-Bio region, 27 people were violently detained, with 9 injured, after about 60 individuals (Mapuche-Pewenche and supporters) had demonstrated peacefully against the construction of an access road for the workforce of the Ralco hydro-electric dam. Among those detained were foreigners visiting the Mapuche communities who were accused of terrorist activities by the Government and served an order of expulsion from the country. This was subsequently revoked due to lack of supporting evidence. The Chilean government favours the Ralco construction project, despite Mapuche- Pewenche families' refusal to leave their lands and despite its contravention of Article 13 of the Indigenous Law No 19.253 of October 1993.

On 5th March in the early hours of morning, the police and private guards from the Minico forestry company launched a new attack on Mapuche community members in Chorrillos state, Traiguen region. This encounter finished with ten Mapuche arrested and fourteen injured (eight police officers and 6 Mapuche). Among those detained were the brothers Victor, Juan and Nelson Ancalaf, Carlos Millalen, Pedro Pichincura, Carolina Manque, Flora Urrea Paillalao, Patricia Troncoso and Gerardo Nahuelpi; also Bernarda Llanca Tripainan, who is in hospital in Traiguen, under arrest.

The systematic confiscation of Mapuche territories and their resources by the state and private landowners has relegated the Mapuche community to marginal status and extreme poverty. The Mapuche currently present with the highest statistics for infant mortality, malnutrition, unemployment, alcoholism, illiteracy (more than 20% of the rural population, predominantly Mapuche, are illiterate in contrast to a 5% national average). Because of lack of medical care, nutrition, and other basic necessities, Mapuche have a life expectancy ten years shorter than the rest of the Chilean population, according to a recent statistical survey of poverty in Chile. To this can be added racial discrimination which does not have limits in Chile. The education system is discriminatory in that it does not recognise indigenous cultures. There is discrimination in the workplace and in governmental institutions, to the extent that even the wearing of traditional dress can incite hostility. This last point, which in any civilized nation would be considered an aberration, an affront or a national scandal, is in Chile an accepted norm, a reality which the Mapuche must confront daily.

The dramatic events which are occuring in the south of Chile are a direct consequence of an insensitive government and politics, which, far from solving problems, is rendering them more acute. The conflicts over confiscation of Mapuche land are continuing without resolution. Development and infrastructure programmes in Mapuche regions are not benefiting the people, on the contrary they are depriving the Mapuche of their own resources and are being carried out without the consent of those involved and in contravention of the Indigenous Law No 19.253. The general use of double standards of justice between the Mapuche and other Chileans, plus racist and discriminatory treatment by the "forces of order", have only served to confirm Mapuche suspicions over government proposals concerning "the indigenous problem". The lack of any solution which might allow a stable dignified future to be envisioned for the enpoverished communities has created demoralisation and frustration. This is today being expressed in outbreaks of active protest, albeit non-violent, in different parts of Mapuche territory. The government responce is repression and violence. Large contingents of police, together with private security guards from forestry companies, are sent in, interrupting traditional agricultural patterns of work and sowing terror in the small Mapuche communities. Witness statements indicate that the agencies for private security guards used by forestry companies are formed and administered by ex-soldiers and ex-agents of DINA-CNI (National Centre of Intelligence), professional criminals who should be jailed for crimes committed during the Pinochet administration. These people are sent out against defenceless Mapuche communities. Violations of human rights are committed with the apparent blessing of local authorities, in an atmosphere created deliberately by the media which promotes their own interests and justifies the repression and police methods.

The current democratic government, lacking a clear policy, which could perhaps find a global and just solution to the problems of the Mapuche people, has limited itself to the militarisation of the regions in conflict. With empty promises on one hand and a "hard line" attitude on the other, they have only succeeded in uniting the 1.5 million Mapuche and spreading the conflict into the whole ancestral territory of the Mapuche nation. The Chilean authorities, using the same laws, repressive apparatus and the same personnel, formed during the time of dictatorship, when arbitrary actions and torture were daily occurrences, are now ignoring denunciations concerning torture and violation of human rights of the Mapuche and others who oppose the system. Complaints by relatives of political prisoners, currently on hunger strike, have reached the public domain. These prisoners are protesting against the torture they were subjected to by police on 05/02/99 in the high security prison in Santiago. This constitutes a grave violation of the Vienna Convention on Prevention and Sanction against Torture. The Chilean State ratified this Convention on 30 September 1988, promulgating it by means of the supreme decree of the Ministry of Exterior Relations No 808 which made it a Law of the Republic on 26 November 1988. In consequence, Chile is obliged to respect and promote human rights among including the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading physical or psychological treatment.

Mapuche International Link welcomes the legal procedures in progress  at the Court of Appeal in Santiago. These were brought into effect by Señor Jose Lincoqueo, Mapuche lawyer and chief of the legal department of the Mapuche Inter-regional Council. He represents the Mapuche communities involved in these conflicts. On 15 January 1999, the lawyer Sr Lincoqueo brought to court the president of the State of Chile and the presidents of its three chambers, the Executive, Legislative and Judicial.These measures are based on treaties signed by the Mapuche nation with the Spanish Crown and the Chilean Republic, in particular the Treaty of Negrete (3-5 March 1803) which announced that the Mapuche nation was independent and sovereign, exercising total and absolute control of its sovereignty over all territories situated to the south of the Bio Bio river, between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Between1860-85 the war, known in Chile as the "Pacification of Araucania" and in Argentina "Desert Campaign"  occured. As a consequence the contemporary territorial conflicts originate directly from the illegal occupation and annexition of the territory of the Mapuche nation, which has happened in contravention to international norms and treaties, treaties which were unilaterally violated by the Chilean and Argentine states. The legal moves by the lawyer Lincoqueo are aimed at finding an honourable and equitable solution, in Chile, to the numerous problems of land tenure and the preservation and development of the cultural identity of the Mapuche people.

We are calling on human rights organisations and on indigenous nations and communities of the world to act in solidarity with the just cause of the Mapuche people and to demand that the Chilean government respect international treaties, return confiscated Mapuche territories, respect the Indigenous Law No 19.253 and observe human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights. We also demand that it respect freedom of religion and freedom of movement, that it put a stop to persecution of Mapuche leaders and authorities and hasten the demilitarisation of Mapuche territories. We suggest that global solutions to the century-old Mapuche problem be sought through negotiation conducted in a constructive spirit of equality and mutual respect.

We ask also, that the Chilean authorities be required to:

Investigate and punish those police officers who operate on the margins of the law; take measures to eradicate the institutionalised racism which exists within the police force.

Bring to an end the repressive methods and abstain from using the Law of State Internal Security which has caused so much damage to relations between the Mapuche community, the judiciary and security services.

Recognise the Mapuche people within the Chilean constitution, and ratify Convention 169 of the OIT on the part of the Chilean state.

Finally, we ask human rights organisations to sent delegations urgently to Mapuche territory, in order to investigate and document the violations of human rights, thereby dispelling the myth that visitors and overseas guests of the Mapuche community are subversives and eco-terrorists.

Please write, expressing your concerns, to the following:

Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle
Presidente de la República,
Palacio de la Moneda,
Santiago, Chile.
Fax: 56-2-6 90 40 20

Sr. Raul Troncoso,
Ministro del Interior
Ministerio del Interior
Santiago, Chile.
Fax: 56-2-6992165

Martin Zilic,
Intendente Regional,
Calle Anibal Pinto 4442,
Concepción, Chile.
Fax: 56-41-230247