Chile. In Wallmapu, the Mapuche want to reclaim their land

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Piñete, Araucania region (Chile), special correspondent.

From one bank to the other of the immense Lleu Lleu lake, two worlds face each other. On one side, as far as the eye can see, thirsty hills, planted with eucalyptus and pines, slopes peeled by the harvest of trees, plots already replanted with young shoots in anticipation of the next harvests and the din of harvesters who chop, cut, condition freshly cut wood. On the other hand, a wood taken over ten years ago from forestry companies occupied by a community of Mapuche natives, replanted with native species that flourish in a beautiful plant disorder from which still emerge the tall silhouettes of a few eucalyptus trees. At the end of a path, a clearing, a log cabin with its narrow terrace shaded by corrugated iron. Inside, a table, a chair, a bed, a few shelves and, nailed to the wall, the map of the country. This is where Pablo Marchant, “Toñito” as his friends called him, found refuge before his assassination on July 9. This 29-year-old young man, who went through the anthropology faculty of the University of Concepcion, an activist of the Coordination Arauco Malleco (CAM), an autonomist organization, participated that day in the town of Carahue in a sabotage action. facilities of the forestry giant Mininco, a subsidiary of the Compañía Manufacturera de Papeles y Cartones (CMPC) belonging to the Matte group, one of the three most successful family conglomerates in Chile. Hit by a bullet from carabinieri enlisted as armed guards of the company, he died instantly. Immediately, the police version reported clashes in which the shooters would have acted in self-defense. A forensic report made public these days contradicts this account by establishing that the young man died from a bullet fired in the head with touching butt, while he was on his knees. “An extrajudicial execution,” slice Rodrigo Roman, his family’s lawyer.

Official sources had initially given for dead Ernesto Llaitul Pesoa, the son of the historic head of the CAM, Hector Llaitul, designated by the authorities as a “terrorist” for his fight for autonomy and his actions in favor of the recovery of despoiled land by foresters. By evoking the assassination of the young weichafe (warrior, wrestler in the Mapuche language), the voice of this solid activist grates: “Beyond the risks and the sacrifices that this fight implies, Toñito was happy among us, He lived as he wanted to live, according to his convictions. Llaitul himself, having gone through prison, has been the subject of numerous legal proceedings, all sewn up with false evidence and manipulations scaffolded by the foresters. At the gates of the community, in their imposing and gleaming white pick-up, the sicarios, the henchmen of these companies, keep a close watch on him. In southern Chile, on the fringes of the rule of law, those who do not let themselves be bought face threats, intimidation, police and judicial harassment and sometimes death.

“We are rebuilding our world”

On the road linking Cañete to Tirúa, an incessant ballet of heavy weights pulling trailers drains the cut logs towards sawmills or cellulose factories; two police vehicles patrol, followed closely by a military armored vehicle. The plots taken back from the forestry industry to be restored and dedicated to food crops bear the flag of the Mapuche nation or the eight-pointed star of this original people; signs list the names of political prisoners demanding their release. “We are rebuilding our world,” proclaims a banner stretched along a meadow where a few cows are grazing. In the large factory-like farms, armies of workers bustle around the smoked wood, watered with plenty of water before being loaded. The heady scent of eucalyptus envelops sterile undergrowth: like pine, this tree acidifies the soil, stifles the native flora that also ends up eradicating the spraying of pesticides and fungicides.

With Forestal Mininco-CPCM, two other companies, Forestal Arauco – owned by the Angelini family – and to a lesser extent Masisa, monopolize nearly 80% of the profits of exports from the forestry sector, pillar of the Chilean economy with mining . These companies flourished under the military dictatorship, when the day after the coup d’état, Augusto Pinochet promulgated a law for the privatization of public property, taking back from the Mapuche the land that had been returned to them by Salvador Allende’s agrarian reform. This land counter-revolution made it possible for retired generals and leading capitalist players to appropriate vast estates at low cost, then handed over to this lucrative forest monoculture generously subsidized by the state. They now control three million hectares: devastated landscapes, dry rivers, displaced populations.

Incendiary actions targeting the interests of this industry

Faced with the unrestrained expansion of these logging companies, Mapuche communities have undertaken to reclaim land and the most radical fringes of the indigenous movement do not hesitate to resort to incendiary actions targeting the interests of this industry. A fiercely repressed trend: in justice, these acts of insubordination are worth their perpetrators heavy penalties, police violence is the norm and recently, on the eve of the general elections, the government of right-wing President Sébastian Piñera declared the state exceptional in four provinces of Araucania and Biobio. Twice prorogued by Parliament, it gives free rein to the deployment of the army and the militarization of this conflict. The far right, deeply rooted in the region, always ready to repaint Mapuche activists as “narcoterrorists”, is rubbing its hands: its presidential candidate, José Antonio Kast, has made order and security his favorite themes. One of his supporters, Ignacio Vidal Rivers, candidate for deputy, considers himself without complexes that the Mapuche are “terribly ugly” and that they have “shit in their heads”. “With their criminal thinking, they’d be better off on the hill with the rest of the monkeys.” No more tolerance with the enemies of Chile ”, he launched to the attention of the Mapuche leaders Aucan Huilcaman, Francisca Linconao, Hector Llaitul and Elisa Loncon, president of the Constitutional Convention.

Faced with this offensive with colonialist and racist overtones, the indigenous movement, for its part, is divided between the supporters of participation in Chilean institutions to promote a plurinational project and the defenders of an autonomist line advocating direct action and claiming the right to self-determination. They like to recall that the Incas were never able to cross the Biobio river, border of the Mapuche country, and that the Spanish crown had to resolve, after a century of war and defeats, to recognize the existence of ‘an indigenous nation on the American continent by concluding a treaty with the Mapuche in 1641. This ancestral territory that its inhabitants call Wallmapu was not annexed by the Chilean state until 1883, at the end of a campaign of extermination cynically called “campaign of pacification of Araucania”. It was on this date that the haciendas founded by the settlers began, little by little, to devour the native lands …

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