november 12, 2002
Instituto de Estudios Indigenas (Institute of Indigenous Studies),
about the death of Mapuche Edmundo Alex Lemun Saavedra.

from the Universidad de La Frontera, in relation to the death of Edmundo Alex Lemun Saavedra, a member of the Montutui Mapu Community, in the Aguas Buenas Sector, in the Ercilla Commune, Southern Chile.

At dawn this morning, November 12, 2002, a Mapuche youth named Edmundo Alex Lemun Saavedra died in the city of Temuco. Edmundo was 17 years old, and resided in the Montutui Mapu Community, Ercilla Commune, IX Region of Chile (Araucanía).

After days of agony, Edmundo died as a consequence of a bullet that hit him in the cerebrum, in the middle of a violent evacuation performed by the Carabineros (police) from Santa Elisa on the property of the foresting company Mininco, which was occupied by the Mapuche in the afternoon of the 7th of November, 2002, five days earlier.

The Public Ministry has designated a special public prosecutor to investigate the facts and the ascertain the origin of the shot. The Carabineros deny their responsibility in the death of Edmundo Lemún. According to the police, if the Mapuche had not used weapons (rocks), the Carabineros would have used steel pellets, and not bullets of a greater caliber like the one that killed Edmundo.

According to his relatives and friends, the shot that hit Edmundo Lemun was deliberate, and not an accident. Edmundo became the subject of a police pursuit because of his participation in the Mapuche movement. The shot was fired from a distance of no more than 20 to 30 meters, a fact that will have been corroborated by the autopsy performed today.

We do not believe that it is our place to make a declaration of who is to blame for this lamentable fact. The determination of those responsible, as it is their sanction, corresponds with justice. Nevertheless, we would like to make known the frequency of complaints that our Institute receives in respect to the situations of disproportionate force used against the Mapuche by the police force in the conflicts that have arisen in the south of our country between the Mapuche, and the foresting industries, as well as other industries in the area.

It seems to us that the situation that has arisen in recent times in our region is evidence of a manifested discrimination against the Mapuche people on the part of those who have the job of maintaining public order and protecting the rights of the people. We believe that the conflicts that exist should be judged fairly and equally by the institutions that exist to protect the rights of the citizens.

Sadly, we state that many of these situations that involve the abuse of power and violence against the Mapuche are never clarified, and those responsible are never brought to justice.

Along with explaining our condemnation of situations in which power and impunity are abused, we would like to exhibit our worry of the future implications that could arise from the death of Edmundo Lemun, who was the first Mapuche to die in the territorial conflicts earlier mentioned. We believe that from the perspective of the Mapuche, this fact displays the incapacity of the state, and of Chilean society, to listen and try to respect the Mapuche´s wishes to recover that which has historically been theirs, as well as their desire to secure their own cultural development as a people.

We estimate that in light of the current, it is foreseeable that situations like this are going to continue to occur, creating a spiral of violence that is extremely detrimental for any type of peaceful coexistence between the mixed ethnicity of the people in this region of the country. We believe that this is a very urgent problem that needs to be resolved to avoid another tragedy like that of Edmundo Lemun. It would involve looking at the uneasy relationship between the Mapuche, the state, and the Chilean society, repairing injustices that have been committed in the past, and creating opportunities for an open dialogue to exist in the future.

We hope that this situation is resolved in a professional and truthful manner, and that the facts are determined and sanctions are given to anyone responsible. We hope that the authorities revise the laws and policies regarding the indigenous people of our country, as those that exist are absolutely insufficient, in a manner that makes steps towards repairing the damage that has been done to the Mapuche by the state. Finally, we hope that efforts are made by the foresting industry, and other industries that are present in this part of the country to show some sort of possibility for a open dialogue with the original inhabitants of the territory that they are occupying, and put an end to the absolute denial and exclusion of the Mapuche, while possibly considering making a space for everyone that lives in our country.

Temuco, November 12, 2002.