As Chilean President Sebastian Piñera announced the new Araucania Development Plan, intended to ‘pacify’ the Mapuche territory in exchange for millions of dollars in public investment, local organizations are rejecting what appears to be economic colonialism.
“This is an offer directed at business people that quickly greeted the right-wing government’s initiative,” said the Wallmapuwen political party in an official statement on Wednesday. “Therefore, it’s a proposal aimed at the interests of the business class, disguised as a development and peace initiative for the region.”
The Wallmapuwen (‘those of the Wallmapu,’ the area known traditionally as Mapuche territory) is a leftist political party that has its origins in 2015 and aims to build autonomy around Mapuche nationalism. It was recognized as an official political party in 2016 but lost its status a year after for failing to comply with the Electoral Service’s norms.
The development plan would bring 491 investment projects into the region over eight years, amounting to US$8 billion, and promote private investment to triple that figure. The projects, Piñera and his Interior and Public Security Minister Andres Chadwick said, would focus on roads, drinking water, health, environment, and local businesses.
It’s the first phase of the 'National Peace Accord for the Araucania,' based on three main points: dialogue and peace; the recognition and preservation of cultural diversity, and inclusive development of the region.
On Thursday, thousands of Mapuche marched in Temuco and other mostly Indigenous communities in the Wallmapu to reject the plan.
“Today we have a peaceful march, a family march,” said Mijael Carbone, a Mapuche leader taking part in the demonstration, “but we will come back to the communities, take control over the territories and demand what’s ours.”
The Mapuche demonstrators came from different communities, such as the Lafkenche, Pehuenche, Williches, Nagche and Warriache.
Wallmapuwen’s main criticism is that the plan was developed without consulting the local population or taking into account their demands, such as political autonomy, and actually aims to strip the Mapuche population of their territory in the name of economic progress.
The plan, Wallmapuwen declares, ignores the fact that Mapuche communities are disintegrating as rural life is not profitable in the current economic situation and many young people migrate to the cities, and now the government is opening the door to massive sales of land by modifying Article 13 of the Indigenous Law.
“Today the government intends to affect even more the Mapuche people, modifying the indigenous law and allowing our lands to ‘enter the market,’” says the statement, “attacking the material foundation of our national existence.”
The party also denounces that large-scale single-crop eucalyptus and pine plantations are deteriorating their ancestral land, further impoverishing Indigenous communities.
The plan also claims to give Indigenous communities greater political representation by establishing quotas in the legislative branch, but the Wallmapuwen denounces that this will only benefit traditional parties that would include Mapuche people within their lines for their own interest.
A more inclusive policy, the Wallmapuwen says, would be to allow the existence of regional political parties, “coherent with the election of regional authorities,” which Mapuche communities have worked hard for in recent years.
“Recognizing autonomy comes hand-in-hand with the recognition of all the collective rights we have as a people,” the statement reads. “The autonomy of the Wallmapu can’t be solved with quotas in parties controlled by the national Chilean oligarchy.”
The Wallmapuwen demands the government consult the Mapuche people over any plan in their territory, as guaranteed by Article 23 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Convention 169 of International Labor Organization, to which the Chilean government is a signatory, but only in name.
According to the party, demands for autonomy and popular consultation “directly contradict the interests of the business oligarchy and its political representatives."
The plan is also devoid of any strategy to revitalize or officialize Mapuzugun, the Mapuche language, one of the movement’s main demands.
“The situation of our language is critical and we can’t see any willingness for a serious revitalization plan. Speaking about development in the Araucania, known to us as the Wallmapu, without taking into account the Mapuzugun… is a continuation of the Wallmapu chilenization plan of late 19th century.”
The party calls for an inclusive dialogue process between all the involved sectors of society, as they consider that otherwise would be a mistake in any long-lasting peace effort in the territory.
The plan was announced by Piñera and Chadwick on Monday at Temuco in the presence of Mapuche representatives aligned with the government.