Yesterday, 10 February, delegates of the Constitutional Convention belonging to the Movement for the Defence of Access to Water, Land and Environmental Protection (MODATIMA) denounced threats and violent behaviour against them. These threats are linked to their work in the Convention to recover natural resources and human rights.
The constituents Manuela Royo, Ivanna Olivares and Cristina Dorador highlighted the harassment and pressures they have received in recent times in relation to their work, and corroborated their intention to continue fighting and working from the Constitutional Convention. The threatened women have filed a formal complaint to the carabineros for death threats, and the public prosecutor’s office will be informed and will initiate the relevant investigation.
The constituent Ivanna Olivares received threats on social networks as a result of her televised statements demanding the nationalisation of copper, while Manuela Royo and Cristina Dorador received threats for the advances in the Constitutional Convention of their proposals for the defence of water, the environment and human rights.
Ivanna Olivares shared: «These have been difficult days for us, particularly I have received a lot of political, misogynist, patriarchal violence, for enunciating ideas that a part of Chileans are afraid of, or believe that it is not the time to be talking about these issues that we consider very legitimate to let known through the Convention, which is the most democratic, pluralistic and participatory space we have had in Chile». As Manuela Royo also clarified, «we got here (constituent assembly) with a lot of effort and we are not going to leave».
MODATIMA’s constituents received yesterday in Santiago the support of the board of directors of their organisation. Rodrigo Mundaca, representing MODATIMA, said that it is funny that today, «the comrades who are raising the need to recover the natural commons, the need to repeal the 1981 Water Code, to end the privatisation and commercialisation of water, to build a new institutional framework for water, are being threatened in the most vulgar and cruel way. And I say this because this space has been won in the streets, a democratic space, a space of ideas, and what cannot be pursued are precisely ideas, what cannot be pursued are the demands that the socio-environmental movement has embodied for so long.
Unfortunately, we also know how serious these threats are, as the long list of women socio-environmental activists who have been killed in recent years shows. As resources dwindle and corporate profits increase, greed and projects increase, for which communities and activists who oppose them are only obstacles to be removed.
Sometimes, attempts are made only to intimidate, but the problem is that the chances of these threats materialising, from mere words giving way to deeds, are never known. But obviously they do exist, and given the seriousness they entail, one cannot stand idly by. For this reason, from Euskal Herria (Basque Country) we once again show our solidarity with the women who were attacked.
We repeat Rodrigo Mundaca’s words of support to those affected: «you are not alone, you have never been alone, we are thousands, and we continue/will continue forward, even if the cold burns, fear bites, the sun hides and the wind dies, we will never give up!»
Violence exclusively against women
As we have denounced on numerous occasions, violence against activists is especially focused on women, due to the weight of patriarchy in our society, but above all because extractivism is profoundly patriarchal and the fact that women oppose it makes it doubly aggravating. The number of threats and fatal victims of extractivism who are women is alarming.
As Manuela Royo explained, this violence is most obviously directed against women, which is why she calls for gender politics to be understood and addressed as a political issue. These threats are accompanied by numerous epithets with sexist connotations and many rude remarks that do not fit in attacks on men and that seek to denigrate. It is a crime to threaten a person with death, but even more so based solely on their opinions, or as in this case, their gender.
The women who were attacked shared that they count on the support but also on the protection provided by their organisation, their colleagues, the protection resulting from socialising their situation, in transmitting the situation to society, that it transcends, that solidarity arises in the institutions.
The Constitutional Convention, the result of the people’s struggle
As a result of the social mobilisations of 2019, known as Estallido Social, Chile managed to hold a national plebiscite in October 2020 and to amend the Political Constitution of the Republic. This plebiscite also ensured that the drafting of the Constitution would be the responsibility of a Constitutional Convention made up of 155 citizens not belonging to any political party. Chile’s current constitution dates back to 1980. Until now, therefore, Chile has been governed by the constitution drafted during the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.
MODATIMA stood in the elections and, like the other Listas Populares, achieved very good results, and Rodrigo Mundaca was elected Regional Governor of Valparaíso. Coincidentally, even then, in the middle of the campaign for the constituent assembly, the now threatened Manuela Royo Letelier was attacked by members of APRA (Association for Peace and Reconciliation in Araucania) in Temuco. At that time she presented her 10 proposals, which included respect for human rights and plurinationality, Good Living, water rights and alternatives to the climate emergency. These are the proposals that she now defends and for which she has once again been threatened.
Unfortunately, MODATIMA activists have suffered such threats for a long time, from those whose interests lie elsewhere. In 2017 Rodrigo Mundaca, then Secretary General of MODATIMA, and other directors received death threats via phone calls for their denunciations of water grabbing in avocado plantations. Last year we also denounced threats against another Chilean water rights activist, Verónica Vilches.