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    A banner that reads "Every immigrant is my brother" as Chile refuses to sign U.N Migrant Pact in December 2018 | Photo: Reuters

Published 19 June 2019

A propaganda campaign promoting xenophobia towards Haitians is branding itself with a "Chile first" slogan.

The peace of the southern Chilean city of Valdivia was disrupted by the distribution of xenophobic posters and other materials targeted toward the immigrant Haitian community of Chile. Immigrant and human rights advocates denounced the acts and vowed action to counter them.

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The xenophobic message promulgated by the publicly distributed materials asserted that people who don’t fight for the fate of their nation are offering it up on a silver platter, and argued that it is neither racist nor xenophobic to say “Chileans first.”

The organization Identity Initiative (Accion Indentitaria) is responsible for the controversial work and has disseminated a series of posters with messages reading “Go home, young Haitian. Your country needs you.”

A representative for the National Network of Immigrant and Pro-immigrant Organizations of Chile, Luis Palacios, said that a movement organizing around anti-immigrant sentiments is present at the national level, but is often isolated to certain regions and does not have much political support.

Haitians who immigrate to Chile are often leaving unstable situations in their home country as a consequence of multiple factors;  from mismanagement of public funds, and high levels of violence, to abject poverty and food insecurity.

Once in their host country of Chile, they face discrimination in the form of policy. Last year, the government of President Sebastian Piñera created a program to ship Haitians back to Haiti in the name of a humanitarian program dubbed the "Humanitarian Plan for Orderly Return." At the time, members of the Haitian community numbering at least 120,000, called it a plan for covert deportation.

In addition, Chile declined the U.N. Pact for Migration in December 2018.

"We think they are looking for a way to place blame on the immigrant community for the social and economic problems affecting Chile,” explained Palacios, stating that immigrants are there to be part of and contribute to the country.

The director of the National Institute of Human Rights in Los Rios Mauricio Maya reported that they are following these activities and have not found a link to specific violent acts to date.

"We think that there is no place for these kinds of discourses that promote hatred in democracy functioning under the rule of law," he said.

For residents of Valdivia, these incidents are clearly a form of violence and xenophobia aimed squarely at the Haitian population and are calling on authorities to take action before they manifest into acts of physical violence against them.

"They have every right to be here in our country," said a community member, with another adding that "this is a precursor to violence and hate."

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