|August 24, 2006
MAPUCHE GROUPS UNDER FIRE FOR LEASING LAND.
A series of investigative
articles in Chile’s El Mercurio newspaper regarding
government-bought land granted to Mapuche groups in southern Chile has
sparked a fierce debate over land use and the government’s
responsibility for indigenous development.
Citing recent statistics from Conadi (National
Corporation for Indigenous Development), the articles last week
revealed that ten percent of the land bought by the government and
restored to indigenous Mapuche groups is rented commercially to its
former owner, a practice that violates the Indigenous Rights Law under
which land is granted.
The investigations revealed that many groups rent the land for an
average of 75,000 Chilean pesos (US$125) per hectare (2.47 acres) each
year. The investigation also found that in the majority of cases the
land is rented back to the previous owners for agricultural purposes.
Between 1994 and 2005, Conadi purchased and returned 491,638 hectares
of land to over 19,000 Mapuche families. The Conadi investigation
showed that the Mapuches’ subletting the land back to its
former owners is most common around the Valdivia region and the
Panguipulli zone in Region X.
The practice has received close public scrutiny, with many calling for
legal action against the indigenous groups. “It is absolutely
illegal. The purpose of the land granted is not to make a
profit,” said Sen. Alberto Espinosa of the National
Renovation Party (RN). “This violates the intention of the
The legal clause in question is Article 13 of the Indigenous Law, which
stipulates that indigenous landholders are not to lease or loan their
lands to third parties. However, the defense for this practice is that
new Mapuche landholders have little to no access to capital, and
therefore no way to make money from the land except by renting it.
“Capital and technical assistance are required to cultivate
the land,” said Sen. José García
Ruminot, of the National Renovation Party (RN). “These are
things to which the Mapuche inhabitants have limited or no access to.
For this reason I feel (that by leasing) they are not transgressing the
Conadi has promised it will take steps to clarify the situation.
“These cases will be investigated,” said Conadi
director Jaime Andrade. “The situation needs to be examined,
and it’s possible that, in extreme cases, land will be
In related news, Gastón Caminondo, President of the Society
for Agricultural Growth (Sofo), recently claimed that half of the land
granted to Mapuche groups is abandoned. Although no official statistics
exist, Caminondo cited the areas of Alaska (Traiguén),
Ginebra (Collipulli), California (Pitrufquén) and Santa
Verónica (Traiguén) as prime examples of land
granted by Conadi that hasn’t been developed due to lack of
resources. Occupants survive on subsistence farming and often abandon
their plots in search of better opportunities.
He called for the government to cease granting further land to Mapuche
groups and instead to use the money to help the current Mapuche
landholders to farm. “Otherwise, they are just landholders
forced to live in poverty,” he said.
SOURCE: EL MERCURIO, CONADI
By Caitlin Sandercock (email@example.com)