The ongoing struggle of the Indigenous Mapuche peoples in Argentina and Chile has resurfaced recently with the disappearance of Indigenous leader Santiago Maldonado in early August, and the arrest of another, Facundo Jones Huala.
Despite decades of resistance, the Mapuche are still struggling to claim their lands and have their ancestral rights recognized by both governments.
Just on Thursday, thousands gathered in Buenos Aires for the first of a number of marches organized by the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, a group of Argentine women whose children disappeared during previous military dictatorships.
These marches are being held to demand that the government of President Mauricio Macri “return” Maldonado, who vanished after a military police raid on the Mapuche community in Cushamen, Chubut Province.
The Mothers calling for people to participate in Thursday's march.
Several critics have dubbed Maldonado as “Macri's first disappeared.”
“The disappearance of Santiago takes us back to dark times that we can't allow ourselves to return to,” march organizers said.
The Mothers described Macri's government as “the enemy of the people” and said that “its practices are similar to those of a dictatorship, which this disappearance fully confirms.”
Jailed Mapuche leader, Jones Huala, who has been detained since May 27 in the Esquel Jail in the province of Chubut, said in interviews that the core of the conflict is the "non-recognition by the Argentine state of the ancestral possession of (Mapuche) lands and of the international principle of the self-determination.”
The Indigenous leader affirmed that Mapuche resistance in Argentina has been organized "from poverty, discrimination and violence of the state, from where has emerged a generation of young militants who organize for the Mapuche struggle, a resistance that responds to the historical violence of the Argentine state.”
In Chile, the Mapuche community is also fighting to recover their ancestral lands, jurisdictional autonomy, and economic and social benefits based on their cultural identity.
Chile's government has refused to address many of these demands. Indeed a new anti-terrorism law has been used to criminalize the actions of Mapuche activists and silence their right to dissent.