Chile
"The way to resolve the Mapuche issue in Chile is by changing the constitution"
LPO spoke with The University of Chile professor and member of Gabriel Boric's team, Salvador Millalaleo, about the tense situation in the Chilean Araucanía region.

The Araucanía region in Chile is a region of high conflict with no clear solution found in the last decades by local governments. In that region, Mapuche organizations coexist with strong demands, while the state usually ignores many of the demands.

Current social transformations and constitutional change in the trans-Andean country opened an interesting door for Chile to become a plurinational state, where native peoples can be rightful subjects.

This shift is underway to the extent that the president of the Constituent Assembly is Mapuche scholar Elisa Loncon. However, violent groups that reject this new relationship with Chile's public institutions and advocate an unworkable insurrectionary solution still persist.

"It is very likely that the Chilean right- wing will not reach the second round"

A recent editorial published in the La Tercera newspaper reports on the issue and speaks of the naturalization of political violence, mentioning the intransigent positions of the Arauca-Malleco Coordinator (CAM), who also fights internally over territorial control with other violent groups.

In this context, LPO spoke with Salvador Millaleo, professor at the University of Chile and member of presidential candidate Gabriel Boric's team on issues of Native Peoples, who said that "there is a conflict that has been escalating and goes back to one original state, with violence against the Mapuche community, that has suffered from political violence since around 1997 from radical sectors." "This is a minority group, but violent actions have grown," he added.

The specialist explained that "the causes of the conflict require a transformation of the state in order to respond to land demands, the possibility of self-development, and political rights advancements. All these demands have not been met until now, when there is a Constituent Process." "The indigenous conflict is one of the factors that motivate the Constituent Assembly, and the political system needs to perform a major surgery on it," he added.

There is a conflict that has been escalating and goes back to one original state, with violence against the Mapuche community

On the lack of public policies to address the issue, Millaleo said that "the problem is that the only way governments have found to resolve the issue in the last 20 years has been through criminalization and militarization. This idea arises from a vision that it is only a question of crime, delinquency and even terrorism, and we must deploy the criminal system, the police and the military. Companies have asked to impose a state of emergency in order to gain power."

"This, far from solving the problem, makes it worse. The police do not operate with adequate standards when it comes to acting and, by not defending human rights, they make the issue worse, leading to the murder of Camilo Catrillanca, for example," he said, and insisted: "That is not the solution, nor do I believe that political violence is; it is a fantasy of insurrection and revolution that feeds the justification of repression. The way to resolve the Mapuche conflict is by means of a constitutional shift, a change in legislation and public policies, together with dialogue, to reach constructive agreements. As a result, the radical groups would tend to disarm and the state would limit police action."

Regarding the Mapuche organizations, the university professor explained that "the radical sectors have not wanted to participate in the Constituent Assembly. In their ideology, the state is not a subject with whom agreements can be reached. This vision is not shared by the rest of the Mapuche people, who want a new state pact that recognizes their rights, autonomy and the plurinational character of the state."

The only way governments have found to resolve the issue in the last 20 years has been through criminalization and militarization

On the other hand, Araucanía is an electoral stronghold of the right. In the last elections for governor, it was the only territory that could preserve the ruling party, and in 2017, José Antonio Kast, from the far right, made a great choice for Sebastián Piñera, who promised to apply the anti-terrorism law.

According to Millaleo, this is because "the conservatives are better organized in Araucanía and have a more extreme vision than in other regions. There is a lack of political development by the Mapuches to balance power with the right wing."

In turn, the first measure that the new government should take with respect to this issue, would be to promote a "multi-leveled dialogue," the professor said.

Finally, Salvador Millaleo delved into the connection that can exist with the groups that operate in Argentina and said: "There are interests of governments in generating the idea of an internal enemy; those speeches have political interests and are very risky. There is no way to denying contact and dialogue between the Mapuche Ancestral Resistance of Argentina (RAM) and the WAM and CAM of Chile, but it must be made clear that there is are no transnational terrorists in the style of the IRA or ETA."

Chile's new president will face a huge challenge in pacifying that region and dismantling radical groups without increasing levels of violence, something that governments have not been able to do since the return of democracy. 

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