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Chile advances historic debt to indigenous communities

Chile advances historic debt to indigenous communities

Source :
The Ministry of Social Development will commence finalization of lawsuits to be debated during first half of this year.

Nine communities from Chile approved President Michelle Bachelet’s government proposal for an Indigenous Ministry and community board last Sunday.

After five months of consultation, representatives of the Aymara, Quechua, Atacameño, Colla, Rapa Nui, Diaguita, Mapuche, Yagan and Kawéskar tribes have given their consent for the implementation of proposed institutions, whose principal role will be to "pay off Chile’s historic debt" to these communities.

Furthermore, the representatives outlined the formation of nine committees, one for each community, and a National Board. According to the local press, 6,000 people have participated throughout the entire process.

The Ministry of Social Development will commence its duty of finalizing lawsuits to be debated during the first half of this year in order to meet with the official program.

María Fernanda Villegas, Minister of Social Development, has said that these have been “intense days of debates and is the result of these communities’ work and they have also re-raised their historic demands.”

According to Villegas, the consultation consisted in the participation of the communities, respect for their cultural traditions and practices, timely information and transparency in its distribution and "good will as the essential foundation on which this process is to develop".

Bachelet’s Government Program claims that "We want a Chile for everyone, which fully includes indigenous communities, and to look at our history: what we have done well, what’s left to do, and what must be corrected".

It states that "a new relationship must be based upon not only individual rights but also collective rights of the indigenous communities with a legitimate proposal for participation and overcoming of all types of marginalization, racism and discrimination".

The document recognizes that both "the State and Chilean society maintain an historic debt. We have not achieved full recognition, therefore we have great challenges ahead of us". This includes four principal guidelines which constitute the Government’s Indigenous Policy.

1-The Chilean State has duties to fulfil. It is a duty of Chile’s State to implement indigenous rights treaties that it has ratified and to tailor its legislation to comply with said standards and devise a new indigenous policy focussed on rights.

2-For a road to peace, negotiation and understanding. The inability to recognize indigenous rights has led to a deep crisis in the relationship between indigenous communities within our society and the State, which we all deeply regret.

3—Co-operate in building a new relationship in order to improve quality of life, for both rural indigenous communities and for the urban indigenous population, and to respect the rights of Indigenous communities and their Natural Resources.

4—Indigenous communities have the right to decide on the use of their land and areas which they inhabit. We will launch an effective policy in regard to urban indigenous people.

Chile’s new indigenous policy will be based on the international rights framework covered in Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization.

Francisco Huenchumilla, a Mapuche grandson and chief of the Araucanía regional government which is home to the biggest Mapuche population, has reiterated that the indigenous subject is a "political affair" and is "one of the most serious problems of the Chilean State".

He also indicated that "the Chilean State arrived in the Araucanía, after 1810, and arrived in a fairly brutal fashion. The Mapuche owned five million hectares which the State stripped from them, later to return 500,000 while their land was sold to colonizers, Chileans and foreigners".

According to Huenchumilla, "this is the origin of the clash between this community and the Chilean State, and the settlers and their descendants are afraid". Ever since, the Mapuche have been fighting to reconquer their land.

In Huenchumilla’s opinion, the issue of land conflict is resolved by purchasing 100,000 hectares; roughly $1,000 million.

© - translated from spanish by Felix Charnley / original article

Date : 10/02/2015