Defending forestry companies, killing Mapuches

A Planeta


The conflict caused by the logging companies, part of the forestry business associated with the pulp and paper mills, continues in Wallmapu, in Mapuche territory. In the part administered by Chile, the conflict continues with the burning of trucks and machinery by Mapuche who want them to leave their territory, and the different forms of repression against them also continue.

On Tuesday, November 2, the President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, decreed a state of emergency in the South Macrozone, which allowed him to mobilize the Armed Forces. He deployed the military in Araucanía, and in the region of Biobio he deployed the navy. This provoked the mobilization of the Mapuches, who set up barricades. The police attacked them with pellets and tear gas. In the afternoon, the military reinstated the road.

In the evening, according to reports from drivers who were attacked, the military began to shoot indiscriminately at passing cars on the Cañete-Tirúa road, without the presence of demonstrators. Four people were injured.

In the afternoon Mapuches marched from the commune of Cañete to the Peleco crossing.

According to Resumen (Chile), a community member, 23-year-old Jordan Liempi Machacan, was killed in the San Miguel de Huentelolén sector when they were shot at by military personnel. He was trying to prevent an arrest. Another Mapuche was also killed, leaving two dead and 10 wounded.

The president of the Constituent Convention, Elisa Loncon, together with the 17 representatives of the native peoples made a video in which they repudiate the murders and the repression. Loncon has accused the state of implementing a «racist policy that is affecting our communities».

The Movement for the Defense of Water, Protection of the Land and Respect for the Environment (MODATIMA) made public a poster in which it accuses the army of «defending the forestry companies by spreading death», adding that «The people without fear are in solidarity with the Mapuche people for their two fallen weichafes (warriors)«.

(Foto: Resumen)

State of emergency after another

It should be noticed that this state of emergency was decreed within days of another one declared by Piñera in the same regions around October 12, which lasted two weeks. On a date that for the Mapuche people signifies the beginning of their oppression and dispossession, it was added to the recent revelation of Piñera’s own illegal financial operations and against the environment. As part of the publication of Pandora‘s Papers, it became known that the current president of Chile omitted to declare the environmental protection of the area where the Dominga mining project of his best friend was to be located. The operation of 152 million dollars was carried out through a company in the tax haven of the Virgin Islands.

In this situation, the governor of Araucanía, Luciano Rivas, declared that the state of emergency was due to the situation of «very high security crisis». The curious thing is that this crisis goes back a long time, in this case, since the celebration of October 12 is celebrates. Funny too that the Chilean state, far from listening to the demands, prefers to continue as before (or worse!). It must also be put in the context of the recent political and social unrest that Chile experienced in the last years and that had its greatest expression in the Estallido of 2019 and 2020, and that also entailed the order of state of emergency in almost the entire country from October 19 to 26, 2019 and a strong repression, which tells of the difficulties of this government and its unpopularity, increasing day by day.

More deaths for the sad list

But above all it must be put in the context of that historical repression and dispossession against the Mapuche people with the most recent wounds were the murder of Matías Catrileo, of Pablo Marchant, of Millanao Cañuta or imprisonments such as that of the machi Celestino Córdova. The most recent is the Mapuche Pablo Marchant, murdered on July 9 by Carabineros when he was with other community members claiming territorial rights against the Mininco forestry company, a company belonging to the Matte family. This company is also accused of murdering two other Mapuche community members, Jorge Mariman Lomcomilla and Matías Carique Loncomilla, killed by Carabineros in Pidima, in the area of Ercilla (Araucanía). This August Millanao Cañuta was also murdered in the same commune, when he was trying to recover cattle that had been stolen from him.

Protest after the murder of Mapuche Pablo Marchant.

Within the resistance, the Mapuche organizations Coordinadora Arauco-Malleco (CAM) and its Organs of Territorial Resistance (ORT) play a decisive role, and since 2011, Weichán Auka Mapu (WAM) (which in Mapundungum means Struggle of the Rebel Territory). Both advocate sabotage actions and also land occupations, in order to recover their territory and gain autonomy. CAM and ORT operated mainly from 2008 to 2012, and WAM mainly from 2013 to date. WAM understands that the landowners, forestry, energy and mining companies are responsible for the dispossession and repression that the Mapuche people have historically suffered. One of its most spectacular actions was the burning of 29 trucks of the forestry company Sotraser (Bethia group), and 18 of the Calafquén company in September 2017. WAM described the action as «defensive violence» against destructive and plundering projects.

These actions were also subject to repression and manipulation by the carabineros corps, who fabricated evidence to accuse people, as demonstrated by the National Prosecutor‘s Office. These are in addition to many other Carabineros set-ups against the Mapuche movement that include infiltration in order to commit crimes that are then foisted on the Mapuche movement, presentation of false witnesses and false evidence (as in the case that led to the imprisonment of Celestino Córdova), or alleged confessions made under intimidation and torture, as well as the fabrication of evidence to argue self-defense in back killings and extrajudicial executions of Mapuche (Alex Lemún in 2002, Matías Catrileo in 2008, Jaime Mendoza Collio in 2009, Brandon Hernández Huentecol).

In September 2017 Weichán Auka Mapu claimed the burning of 29 trucks of the Sotraser forestry company and 18 of the Calafquén company.

On the Argentine side more of the same

On the other side of the Andes, the Mapuche people suffer the same situation, currently exacerbated by a political, business and media offensive against native peoples. On the one hand, a historical marginalization and repression, and on the other hand, the plundering of their territory, especially for forestry business. In addition to taking away their territory, the forestry companies cut down the native forest to replace it with pine, which is prone to fires in the current climatic conditions of drought. This has been an added problem for the Mapuche communities in Patagonia, with 300 families losing their homes by 2020.

We have already brought here the conflict recently provoked in the Lof Quemquemtreu community in another land reclamation and subsequent repression. This case also has in common the criminalization of the Mapuche people in general, and more specifically of those who dare to question the established order. The criminalization starts from the institutions, from the central and regional government, in this case with governor Arabela Carreras at the helm, as well as from the business elite, and is continued by the media.

To do so, they first associate the fires with the Mapuche people, and then label them as terrorist acts, thus stigmatizing the Mapuche as terrorists. In this case, special mention must be made of the fire at the Club Andino Piltriquitrón in El Bolsón, which was considered a Mapuche terrorist act, despite the lack of evidence and the absence of any claim.

In the area of fires, as occurs on the Chilean side with other Mapuche organizations, many have historically been attributed to Mapuche Ancestral Resistence (RAM), many times without evidence. There are at least two court rulings in which it has not been possible to prove the responsibility of this organization.

Mapuche symbol in the assembly of community assemblies of Chubut in Yala Laubat, a small community that was left without water, but with great spiritual strength. (Aníbal Aguaisol)

The strategy is not new: it is the same and sly tactic of other governments such as that of Mauricio Macri and his Minister of Security, Patricia Bullrich, who in the face of this threat, as in Chile, Governor Carreras proposes to send the federal agents and the Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI). But besides stigmatizing, this qualification justifies disproportionate police and judicial measures. And then it serves to justify penalties, because racism is rooted in the system, and despite the existence of numerous norms that protect indigenous rights, racist and supremacist judges do not apply them.

In Río Negro no indigenous community has a community title (out of more than 2000 indigenous communities identified in Argentina, only 100 do). But it is also the only province that does not apply Law 26.160 or Land Law, in force since 2006, which obliges the national and provincial states to make a survey of the native communities, about the lands they inhabit and their historical relationship with them, so that one day they will be given the native property titles (According to a Report of the National Institute of Indigenous Affairs (INAI), as reported by Página 12). Only two communities were diagnosed, and they were diagnosed when they were about to be evicted.

Currently, the Argentine government has been obliged to comply with a ruling of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to return 400,000 hectares of ancestral lands of the Wichí, Iyjwaja, Komlek, Niwackle and Tapy’y peoples of Salta, thus making its will clear.

INAI should be called NIAIA or National Institute of Anti-Indigenous Affairs because it has 28 legal cases against indigenous communities. In cases of land recovery and land seizures as well as evictions, most provincial courts ignore Article 2 of Law 26.160, which prevents evictions in the process of community survey.

The institutional racism that prevails in the province of Río Negro is evidenced by examples such as the recent case of the former senator for this province, Miguel Angel Pichetto, who in recent statements paid homage to Julio Argentino Roca, the architect of the Conquest of the Desert1 against the original peoples, while at the same time lashing out at the original peoples. The colonialist and racist attitude persists in all its forms.

But this criminalization, besides annulling the historical and real owners of that land, seeks to distract public opinion from the reality, which is none other than the territorial appropriation by foreign subjects and real estate speculation. While the law 26160 of diagnosis and restitution of indigenous territory is not applied, another one that Macri approved, the decree 820/2016 or «land law», is applied. This one gave facilities for land trade, but also shielded the owners and protected them so that the extent of their property is not known. Since the application of this decree, Santa Cruz is the province with the most hectares sold to foreigners, 19,240 hectares. As denounced by the journalist Martín Ulacia, «1,877,885 Argentine hectares are in the hands of firms located in tax havens designed to evade taxes».

////////////////////////////////// FOOTNOTES //////////////////////////////////

1 The Conquest of the Desert is the name given to the last stage of the colonization of the current territory of Argentina, that of the southern part, which took place from 1878 to 1885. The time between those years show that it was not so easy, that there was opposition, and this can only be understood if there is a population, and an opposing population. On the other hand, the two words of the term denote the reality: «Conquest», it had to be by force, taking territory, which means dispossession. While «Desert» does not agree with the real meaning of the word and of that area, but it does agree with the objective of showing that land as uninhabited and thus legitimizing that «conquest». To the effort to present it as uninhabited, it was added later (up to the present) the effort to deligitimize part of its inhabitants, the Mapuches, as foreigners coming from the Chilean side, and other inhabitants as nomads. The survivors of the «conquest» were confined in reserves, imprisoned or enslaved.

For more information see:

  • «Patagonia, criminalization, militarization and violation of human rights in Mapuche ancestral territory». Compiled by Patricia Agosto. America Libre 2012.
  • «MAPU CHILLKANTUKUN ZUGU: Decolonizing the Map of Wallmapu,Constructing Cultural Cartography in Mapuche Territory.» Miguel Melin, Pablo Mansilla, Manuela Royo. Pu Lof Editores (Chile).

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