STP has asked the German President Gauck to speak up for the Mapuche

Mapuche still suffer from unfair treatment by the government of Chile (Press release)

Mapuche protestieren gegen das ihnen zugefügte Unrecht. Foto: David Suazo Quintana via Flickr

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) has asked the German President Gauck to try and persuade the Chilean government to enter an open and honest dialogue with the about one million Mapuche. “The situation in the traditional settlement areas of the Mapuche in southern Chile is still very bad,” says a letter the human rights organization sent to the German head of state. The Mapuche are complaining about raids on their villages, carried out with great brutality, as well as about unfair treatment by the judiciary. There are still approximately 600,000 Mapuche living in the rural areas of Araucania. “We would like to ask you to advocate for a dialogue between the government and the Mapuche, mediated by the Bishop of Temuco. In the longer run, problems like this can only be solved in meetings at eye level.” Gauck will arrive in the Andean country on Monday.

Anthropologist Sebastian Garbe – who, on behalf of the Society for Threatened Peoples, visited Chile as a trial observer – confirmed that the Mapuche’s complaints regarding the Chilean jurisdiction are justified. Thus, the Mapuche Guido Carihuentro was first sentenced to five years on probation, in the second instance even to eight years in prison without parole, for an arson attack on three forestry vehicles and agricultural equipment. His offer to compensate for the material damage was dismissed. In prison, he was also denied his right to freedom of religion. A farm worker, however, who fatally injured a Mapuche, will only have to serve the minimum sentence of five years and one day – plus a fine of the equivalent of 870 US dollars. On October 1, 2014, he had tried to chase away a group of peaceful squatters, but had run over the 33-year-old Mapuche José Quintriqueo Huaiquimil with a tractor.

Further, the police forces are apparently also forcing Mapuche to make false statements. Before a court in Temuco, a defendant had thus testified to have been threatened by the investigators. He falsely admitted that he himself – and ten other Mapuche – had been involved in an arson attack. In spring 2016, there had been several arrests based on the false testimony. The arson attack on a farm on January 4, 2013, had led to the deaths of the owners. 

The Mapuche in Chile are fighting for their land and for participation rights. Under the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990), companies had secured licenses to use the land of the Mapuche for mining, forestry, and energy projects. This policy was continued by the democratic governments, although Chile ratified ILO Convention 169, according to which indigenous peoples have to be consulted if projects could affect their ecological surroundings or their cultural life. Thus, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has accused Chile of human rights violations.

Header Photo: David Suaza Quintana via Flickr