Latin American Report
Some Mapuche Sign Pact, Others Protest
On Aug. 5, Chilean president Eduardo Frei signed a "citizen commitment" pact with more than 1,200 indigenous representatives in a ceremony at the La Moneda government palace, pledging respect for Chile's indigenous peoples. Dressed in traditional indigenous clothing, Frei also announced an investment of $270 million for development, infrastructure, housing, health care, culture and identity programs to address immediate indigenous needs. "Improvement of living conditions for the Chileans who belong to our indigenous peoples has been a constant concern for my government," said Frei. Nearly 10% of Chile's 15 million people are members of the Mapuche indigenous nation. The pact was primarily signed with Mapuche representatives, but also included provisions to benefit Lafquenche and Aymara communities. Proposals included in the pact would provide for constitutional recognition of Chile's indigenous peoples and ratification of Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (OIT).
Although dozens of "lonkos" and "machis"--the top authorities of Mapuche communities--were present for the ceremony, others protested the pact. Before the signing, Mapuche and environmental demonstrators threw eggs and paint at La Moneda, and shouted at the indigenous representatives entering the building, calling them sellouts. Seven people were arrested, according to police.
Protesters were especially angry that the pact makes no mention of the Mapuche communities' principal demand: the return of their ancestral lands. Mapuche communities have clashed in recent weeks with logging companies in southern Chile, who they say are usurping their lands. At least one of the people who attended the signing also protested; a Mapuche woman interrupted the ceremony to shout at Frei that he should "return our lands to us." [CNN en Espanol 8/5/99, with info from reporter Alberto Pando, Reuters, Associated Press; La Tercera 8/6/99]
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