Chile Nov 10 2003 (Tierramérica)
Mapuches Want to Shape Their Own Future.
by María Cecilia Espinosa

SANTIAGO, Nov 10 (Tierramérica) - The Mapuches, the largest indigenous group in Chile, are organising to vindicate their ancestral rights in the framework of a growing movement of native peoples throughout Latin America.

Numbering around 700,000 in a country with a population of 15 million, the Mapuches demand constitutional recognition as the nation's original peoples and say they are seeking a form of self-determination for their future and their culture, without threatening the integrity of the Chilean state.

”For reasons of segregation, discrimination, poverty or resistance, unlike other indigenous communities that have undergone processes of integration, the Mapuches have maintained their ways of life more purely. Anyone can see this who has any contact with southern Chile, where they live,” José Bengoa, author of ”History of the Mapuche People”, told Tierramérica.

Conflict and misunderstandings between the broader Chilean society and the indigenous groups heated up in the past decade. Young Mapuche leaders emerged to denounce that their people not only confronted poverty, but also that their people were not recognised as a community.

The indigenous movement turned more violent, with land takeovers, demonstrations against the construction of the Ralco hydroelectric dam on the upper Bío-Bío River, and repeated burnings of the lumber companies' tree plantations.

The impact of the lumber industry puts limits on and alters the traditional economic, social and cultural lives of the Mapuches, say indigenous leaders.

The more radical members of the indigenous community have tried to use force to recover the Mapuche lands that have been appropriated, and aim to return to their ancestral forms of coexisting with their natural environment.

The individuals involved in these acts have been accused of terrorism, which has allowed the authorities to apply Chile's Domestic Security Act.

The history of land seizures, abandonment and resistance began five centuries ago with the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors and the Arauco War.. In 1881, through the ”pacification of Araucanía”, the state tried to ”civilise” the Mapuches.

That meant appropriating their lands, reducing their communities and subjecting them to non-indigenous colonisers.

In the early 1970s, the demands of the Mapuche movement were articulated in the agrarian reform of the Salvador Allende government (1970-1973), but at the end of that decade, the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship halted the process.

A decree by the military regime divided up the indigenous people's lands and put it on the market, establishing that ”once the community is liquidated (with regards to land possession), they will no longer be indigenous lands, and their inhabitants no longer indigenous.”

After the dictatorship, closer ties were created between the Patricio Aylwin administration (1990-1994) and the Mapuche people, and in 1993 the Indigenous Law was enacted, creating the National Corporation for Indigenous Development (CONADI).

The guiding principle was to recognize Chilean society as ”pluri-ethnic and multicultural”, and to seek ”that all institutions -- political, economic, and social, in health and education -- reflect the multicultural reality that underlies the social basse,” Aroldo Cayún, CONADI national director, said recently.

The Indigenous Law expressed the effort of the state to ”recognize that it should offer reparations to all Indians for the harm caused by Western civilization, the loss of lives, the persecution, the expropriations and confinements,” engineer Andrés Millaleo, CONADI development advisor, told Tierramérica.

But the statute did not include any sort of self-governance, not even in relative terms. Today, the Mapuches stress that they are not looking for independence, but rather a form of self-determination that does not challenge the authority of the Chilean state.

On Oct. 12, on the 511th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas, a thousand Mapuches marched through Santiago to protest against the official policies in regards to their community. They demanded the release of the Indians who are in prison on charges of illicit association and for setting forest fires in the south.

They also demanded that Oct. 12, known as 'Día de la Raza' or Day of Hispanity, no longer be a day of celebration, given that for Indians the date marks the beginning of the Spanish colonial conquest. They prefer ”Day of Mapuche Resistance”.

(* María Cecilia Espinosa is a Tierramérica contributor. Originally published Nov. 1 by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme.)


As UN marks Day of indigenous peoples,
Annan renews call to ensure their rights

8 August 2003–

As the United Nations celebrated today the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned that indigenous peoples still faced threats to their lives and destruction of their “belief systems, cultures, languages and ways of life.”

Underscoring these threats, the UN refugee agency reported that virtually all of the 84 indigenous groups in Colombia face forced displacement or are threatened by it because of internal strife, while the UN Development Programme (UNDP) issued a new survey showing that Chile’s Mapuche people, the country's largest indigenous group, suffer many social and economic disparities.

“The human family is a tapestry of enormous beauty and diversity. The indigenous peoples of the world are a rich and integral part of that tapestry,” Mr. Annan said in his message for the Day, usually marked on 9 August but observed today. “They have much to be proud of and much to teach the other members of the human family. The protection and promotion of their rights and cultures is of fundamental importance to all States and all peoples.”

Noting that the establishment of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has given indigenous peoples a home at the UN, he added: “As a mechanism for partnership between indigenous peoples, the Member States and the United Nations system, the Permanent Forum gives hope that the motto of the Decade – ‘partnership in action’ – is being turned into reality in the areas of economic and social development, environment, health, education, culture and human rights.”

Celebrating “the existence, diversity and achievements” of indigenous peoples, the Secretary-General declared: “We honour their struggles to preserve their cultures, protect their lands and combat discrimination. We pay tribute to those who, without relinquishing their identity, move comfortably between the traditions of their ancestors and the wider, rapidly changing modern world.”

The Chairman of the Permanent Forum, Ole Henrik Magga, noted the abuses indigenous people still faced and made a vibrant appeal for preserving their culture and languages.

“We deplore and condemn the egregious violations of human rights, including extrajudicial killings and involuntary disappearances, the discrimination in the criminal justice system, the forced displacement, the extreme poverty, the danger of extinction of isolated indigenous communities, the continuing threat to indigenous cultures and indigenous lands that indigenous peoples still suffer,” he said in a message. “But now that indigenous peoples have a place within the family of nations we look forward to a real and constructive partnership with States and intergovernmental organizations. The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is a vehicle that will allow us to gain a higher profile and come closer to the end of exclusion and discrimination and have our human rights respected.”

On Colombia, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said a new report by the National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia (ONIC) painted “a grim picture.” It shows that nearly 13,000 indigenous people fled their original homelands in 2001 and 2002. During the first half of this year, over 50 indigenous persons had been murdered and as many as 3,000 had to flee their homes in fear for their lives.

On the inferior conditions of Chile’s 600,000 Mapuche people, who account for about 4 per cent of the population, UNDP reported that their human development index (HDI), based on income, life expectancy and education levels, is 0.642, compared with 0.736 for other Chileans. source:

Chile: Urgent need to reorient forestry policy from tree monocultures to forests
Source: WRM's bulletin Nº 70, May 2003

In these times of increasingly fast processes linked to technological development, we are also witnessing an equally vertiginous loss of natural resources due to over-exploitation enabling a way of production, consumption and lifestyle that closes a vicious circle.

In this framework, the gradual loss of native forests is not a minor question, above all because it is irreparable. In an urban context, it may be hard for the ordinary citizen --removed from the cycles and pace of nature's processes and their observation and experience-- to notice what is happening, in the case of Chile in the southern region. Perhaps when the ordinary citizen does learn about it, it may be too late.

However, before going into details, it is important to point out that what is happening in Chile is by no means an isolated case. The situation is very similar in many other countries, where monoculture tree plantation is promoted while forests continue to be destroyed and, in many cases, substituted by monocultures of alien species. It is also essential to recognize what is going on in this country, in view of the fact that the "Chilean model" is being promoted in Latin America as a successful example to be imitated by other governments, in spite of the fact that it is a model that has already shown itself to be socially and environmentally unsustainable.

Chile has signed and ratified a series of international conventions, protocols and treaties: on Biodiversity, on Desertification, on Climate Change, on the Ozone Layer, Agenda 21, the Montreal Process with the Santiago Charter and many more. These would be dead without a forestry policy and the institutionality able to put them into practice.

Additionally, processes such as the Free Trade Treaties signed recently only contribute to make forest deterioration and its possible disappearance take place faster because of the lack of regulations, and of the guidelines promoting increased tree plantations, today the second largest Chilean export product, though at the expense of its people and its environment.

Two companies concentrate over one million 300 thousand hectares covered by large-scale monoculture tree plantations and the total amount of these plantations covers 2 million, 200 thousand hectares. This issue has had an enormous social and environmental impact, causing the migration of communities in wide rural sectors and impoverishment of peasants. Delicate socio-economic problems have arisen in Auracania, where serious conflicts between forestry companies and indigenous communities and small farmers continue to take place.

To the detriment of native forests, the plantation of alien species continues to be promoted. Decree Law 701 benefits the wrongly called "reforestation," by foreseeing economic benefits, nominally reaching up to 90% of the plantation costs in the case of smallholdings in non-agricultural or degraded lands, without making practically any discrimination between forestation with native species and plantation of alien species. And now, even greater facilities exist. This year 13 million dollars have been allocated towards Forestry Security Bonds (for the plantation of pine and eucalyptus on the land of small landowners), an instrument created by the Fundación Chile together with the Wood Corporation (Corporación de la Madera), the Development Corporation (Corporación de Fomento) and the Ministry of Agriculture.

Meanwhile, the bill on native forests, which will perhaps be sent to Congress shortly, only contemplates 5 million dollars as State contribution for the first year. The Lake Region, where the forests with the most biodiversity are located, is rapidly becoming a monotonous landscape of pines and eucalyptus to supply the enormous cellulose plant presently being built by the Arauco Company in San Jose de la Mariquina.

Those denouncing this state of affairs consider that access to information, dissemination and education regarding native forests must be improved for there to be a culture of conservation and sustainable use and that in order to support the National Strategy for Biodiversity Conservation to preserve ecosystems, a list of priority sites must be urgently identified, achieving compliance with national laws and international treaties ratified by Chile for the protection of natural resources and contemplating a definition of forests with an ecological criterion.

It would seem that in Chile, no forestry policy exists (in the sense of sustainable forest use) and that what there is, is in fact is a policy aimed almost exclusively at the promotion of monoculture tree plantations. What is even worse is that this policy has been so successful that wide areas of forest have disappeared, substituted by unending lines of pine and eucalyptus, that someone very aptly defined as "planted militia": green, in line and advancing.

This lack of a policy for the conservation of forests has been corroborated in numerous reports, the latest being the Country Report 2000, carried out by the University of Chile for the National Environmental Commission (

The time has come to end the illusion that pine and eucalyptus plantations are "forests." Plantations are plantations and forests are forests. It is that easy. No monoculture tree plantation can fulfil any of the social and environmental functions fulfilled by Chilean forests. For this reason, the urgent adoption of a real forest legislation is urgent to ensure the sustainable use and restoration of the only Chilean forestry resource: the native forest.

Article based on information from: "Chile necesita una política forestal", Voces del Bosque, verano 2003, Nº 34, Defensores del Bosque Chileno, ; "DL 701: Aprovechar la herramienta que hay", , Defensores del Bosque Chileno.

"The Chilean state is criminalizing the struggle of the Mapuche,"
Red de divulgación e intercambios sobre autonomía y poder

"The Chilean state is criminalizing the struggle of the Mapuche," said Alfredo Seguel, a former government worker and a member now of Konapewman Mapuche, a group of university-trained professionals who have forgone big-city life to return to their ethnic roots.

"The movement to recuperate our territory isn't just political," he added. "It's also a social, cultural and religious struggle."

In the last few years, the Mapuche have won mayoral and city council elections for the first time. In the city of Temuco, Mapuche university students have taken over abandoned properties and established communal homes.

Activists have opened a Mapuche pharmacy in Temuco to dispense traditional herbal medicines that are disappearing in the wild in part because of the effects of tree farms, which now cover millions of acres of the Mapuche's ancestral land.

Impoverished indigenous farmers have formed tribal councils to draft town constitutions and lobby local governments for the return of communal land. In all, there are as many as 100 local and regional Mapuche organizations in this region of Chile.

"We are seeing a revitalization of all aspects of Mapuche culture, even of the Mapuche language, which was beginning to die out," said Alejandro Herrera, a professor at the University of the Frontier in Temuco.

"Until recently, Mapuche parents wouldn't let their children speak Mapudungun because having a Mapuche accent when you spoke Spanish was a sign of backwardness," Herrera added. "Now, we see groups of young people forming study circles to learn the language."

Pablo Huaiquilao is from a Mapuche family that left its impoverished rural village two generations ago. In college, he met other students who were starting to embrace their tribal identity.

"I wanted to know who I was, where I came from," he said. So he sat down and talked with his grandmother. She spun a familial epic of land takeovers, massacres and the time Swiss colonists — sent by the Chilean government as homesteaders — set fire to the village's wheat harvest.

"It was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle," he said.

In the Chilean media, the modern "Mapuche conflict" is most often portrayed as a struggle between the order and reason of the country's European heritage and an indigenous culture dominated by "superstition" and violence.

"Christian Group Attacks Machis," read a recent headline in the Temuco daily newspaper El Diario Austral, which detailed one religious leader's attempt to wean his followers away from indigenous remedies and healers. The Christian distributed fliers that read: "Brother, if you don't want to be in bad standing with the true God, reject these customs that the Mapuche culture offers you."

Farmers See Threat

For Manuel Riesco, a sugar beet farmer and president of a growers organization in Temuco, the indigenous movement is a threat to farmers, some of whom have had their homes burned down and their lives threatened because of property disputes with neighboring Mapuche.

"This is not going to be the next Chiapas," he said, referring to the southern Mexican state where indigenous rebels have battled government troops. "We're talking about 200 hotheads, and those hotheads have 20 leaders who are now in jail."

Many farmers here are descendants of Swiss, German and Italian immigrants who settled in the region in the early 20th century. In the years since, descendants of the settlers have acquired more land thanks to a series of decrees and laws that have eaten away at indigenous communal holdings. Only in recent years have the Mapuche started to fight back.

"This is becoming like the Wild West," Riesco said.

Smoldering for decades, the conflict over land began to catch fire again in the late 1990s. Like others here, Riesco says the globalization of the Chilean economy and the government's free-trade policies were the cause. The grain and dairy farms that were once the cornerstone of the regional economy have been hard hit by cheaper American exports. A farmer who once employed dozens of Mapuche as laborers can find himself forced to leave land fallow or sell out to the forestry companies.

Thousands of former laborers have been thrown out of work and forced to migrate to the cities. Two-thirds of the Mapuche in Chile now live in Santiago, the capital and largest city.

As the Mapuche are forced to leave the countryside, trees seem to take their place — clusters of eucalyptus and pine planted in old wheat fields or where native forests stood. Harvested by machine, the pine and eucalyptus trees are processed into lumber and paper pulp for North American and Asian markets.

The companies that own those trees are constant targets of protest, including the Santiago-based Mininco, which owns many of the trees around Collipulli.

In November, Mapuche activist Edmundo Lemun, 17, was shot and killed by police during a protest at tree farms in Ercilla. On Jan. 20, more than a dozen hooded Mapuche with homemade shotguns and Molotov cocktails invaded a Mininco workers' camp outside the town, setting fire to the living quarters.

In confrontations with police and forestry company guards, youths cover their faces with hoods and scarves and sometimes hurl rocks with slingshots, a traditional weapon used in battles past. "We're not in conflict with anyone," said Francisco Urzelain, a spokesman for Mininco. The controversy is ancient history, he said, as relevant to modern Chile as American Indian claims to Massachusetts.

Corporate Stance

"The Mapuche were here before the Spanish came. We bought this land 20 years ago. No one has presented any evidence in court to say we bought the land illegally," Urzelain added before declining further comment. Mininco and other companies also have become the target of a public relations campaign led by European and American activists, including the San Francisco-based group ForestEthics.

Most of the trees planted in the region are Monterey pine — a species native to California — and eucalyptus from Australia, says Aaron Sanger of ForestEthics. The density of the planting causes ground water to disappear, he says. Often, the trees grow so close together that wildlife can't walk between them.

"Those trees are like an army marching across Chile, consuming Mapuche culture," Sanger said.

Native trees such as the canelo and the luma, both integral to Mapuche religious practices, are being driven toward extinction. According to one Chilean government study, all native trees outside national parks could disappear by 2015.

Violent resistance to the tree farms first exploded in 1997, when Mapuche residents set fire to logging trucks outside the town of Lumaco, whose name means "waters of the luma tree."

Herrera, the University of the Frontier professor, said the incident came after years during which the Mapuche tried unsuccessfully to lobby local government.

"They exhausted all the procedures of the democratic system," Herrera said. "A week before they set fire to the trucks, they traveled to Temuco in a last effort to meet with the governor. But he wouldn't even let them in the door."

Six years later, Lumaco's Mapuche residents are still seething. Last year, a group of men wearing ski masks and hoods used axes and chain saws to level eucalyptus trees at the nearby Alaska Tree Farm.

Today, several leaders from the Lumaco area are behind bars, charged with destroying forest company property. As elsewhere, water shortages contribute to the conflict.

"Twenty years ago, I don't think anyone in our community imagined that one day we would have to bring in water trucks to provide for the basic needs of our families," said Alfonso Rayman, a leader of the Nagche Mapuche, a subgroup that includes several communities around Lumaco.

In an attempt to soothe such passions, the local government has provided town residents with cisterns to store water. But such programs, Rayman says, don't address the root cause of the problem.

The village sits in a narrow valley surrounded by thick green clusters of trees, each a company farm. For the Mapuche to feel free, Rayman says, those trees must disappear.

"The Chilean government understands the indigenous problem as a problem of poverty," he said. "But what drives us is the return of our land and the end of this invasion."

A few days earlier, in a small act of defiance, a group of boys had set a fire in a hillside meadow near the town, Rayman said with a slight smile. The blaze ran up the hillside and killed hundreds of saplings.

In the face of such resistance, the national government is trying a carrot-and-stick approach. It works to improve schools and other services in the region while adopting a get-tough attitude toward the most militant leaders.

"We've worked very hard with the forestry companies and the indigenous communities" to resolve the conflicts, said Ramiro Pizarro, governor of Chile's 9th Region, which includes Temuco, Ercilla and Collipulli. "And there are people who want to destroy that work."

For those militants, Chile is using its anti-terrorism laws, which deprive detainees of the right to a speedy trial and allow prosecutors to withhold evidence from defense attorneys.

Ancalaf, the Mapuche organizer from Collipulli, remains defiant.

"We call on all the Mapuche communities to begin a process of recuperating their territory," he said. "Whether they decide to do it with violence or without is a decision of each community."

Still, he makes clear that he believes fire is an especially effective tool in advancing the cause.

"If it hadn't been for that, the government wouldn't even be listening to the problems of the Mapuche people," he said. source:

Mapuche Activists Acquitted

On April 9, citing lack of evidence, a three-judge panel of the Oral Criminal Court in the Chilean city of Angol (in Region IX, La Araucanía) unanimously acquitted three Mapuche activists of charges they were responsible for “terrorist arson and threats” in violation of the state security law. In the trial, which began March 31, Mapuche lonkos (community leaders) Pascual Pichún and Aniceto Norún and activist Patricia Troncoso Robles (alias La Chepa) were accused of setting a fire on December 12, 2001, that damaged property at the Nancahue estate in Region IX, owned by former agriculture minister Juan Agustín Figueroa. Norín has been jailed since January of last year, Pichún since March of last year, and Troncoso since September. The government’s key witnesses included police agents who are on permanent guard at the Nancahue estate, and at least two “faceless” witnesses whose identity was kept secret.

Juan Pichún, a spokesperson for the families of the three activists, said “justice was done,” but faulted the state for their lengthy and unjust detention. The acquitted activists now plan to sue the state for compensation. In the meantime, they will remain in prison under preventive custody as they face charges in a separate case of “illegal terrorist association” and, in the case of Troncoso, arson for another attack. (Mapuexpress - Informativo Mapuche 4/10/03; La Tercera (Chile) 3/31/03, 4/1/03, 4/4/03; El Mostrador (Chile) 4/1/03, 4/10/03)

On March 28, a homemade explosive caused minor damages to the court building in Temuco, also in Region IX. (LT 3/31/03) An arson attack was carried out April 1 at the Lleu Lleu estate in Arauco province (Region VIII). The Lleu Lleu estate has suffered at least 20 arson attacks; its owner, Osvaldo Carvajal, said the April 1 one was probably in retaliation for his scheduled testimony against the Mapuche activists in the Angol trial. (EM 4/2/03; LT 4/4/03) source:

Tribe seeks to reclaim land

By Hector Tobar foreign correspondent :: Posted April 30 2003

-Because eucalyptus trees are thirsty, Victor Ancalaf became a rebel.

Growing like cabbages in neat rows planted by one of the largest forestry companies in South America, the trees suck the water out of the ground, killing off streams and making wells run dry in this corner of Chile. For Ancalaf and other Mapuche Indian leaders, that is one indignity too many.

So every now and then, the Mapuche set ablaze the trees and the trucks of companies that plant them. Ancalaf is charged with burning five vehicles as part of a smoldering, low-tech war that also is being fought with slingshots, chain saws and homemade shotguns.

Just as often, however, the Mapuche fight back with peaceful means. Medicine women called "machis" pray for the spirits of the water and the earth to stand fast against the "exotic species" transplanted from North America and Australia. On the Internet, activists spread word of their struggles, making allies in Sweden, France and other countries where leftists have ties to Latin American compatriots.

"We've entered into a period of darkness of water, and this is bringing us to the brink of extinction," said Rayen Kuyeh, a Mapuche poet and playwright. "If wanting to defend the spirits of the water, the trees, the birds, the earth and the air makes me a terrorist, then go ahead and call me a terrorist."

The environmental impact of commercial tree farming in Chile has helped feed a renaissance of activism and cultural pride among the nation's 1 million Mapuche, the original inhabitants of what is now south-central Chile and parts of Argentina. The Mapuche held off European incursions onto their land for centuries, signing a 1641 treaty with the Spanish crown that was later thrown out by an independent Chile, before the tribe was finally vanquished in the late 19th century.

Relegated to reservations -- called "reductions" here -- most Mapuche now work as impoverished farmers or field hands or live as a marginalized minority in Chilean cities.

"Our objective is the recuperation of the territory of the Mapuche people," Ancalaf, 40, said in a jailhouse interview. "We want to control our destiny and shape our future according to the cosmology of our people."

Held without trial since November under anti-terrorism laws, Ancalaf and a dozen other militant leaders have become heroes to many Mapuche, even those who disagree with their tactics.

Activists have opened a Mapuche pharmacy in Temuco to dispense traditional herbal medicines that are disappearing in the wild in part because of the effects of tree farms, which now cover millions of acres of the Mapuche's ancestral land.

Impoverished indigenous farmers have formed tribal councils to draft town constitutions and lobby local governments for the return of communal land. In all, there are as many as 100 local and regional Mapuche organizations in this region of Chile.

"We are seeing a revitalization of all aspects of Mapuche culture, even of the Mapuche language, which was beginning to die out," said Alejandro Herrera, a professor at the University of the Frontier in Temuco.

Many farmers here are descendants of Swiss, German and Italian immigrants who settled in the region in the early 20th century. In the years since, descendants of the settlers have acquired more land thanks to a series of decrees and laws that have eaten away at indigenous communal holdings. Only in recent years have the Mapuche started to fight back.

"This is becoming like the Wild West," said Manuel Riesco, a sugar beet farmer and president of a growers organization in Temuco.

Smoldering for decades, the conflict over land began to catch fire again in the late 1990s. Like others here, Riesco says the globalization of the Chilean economy and the government's free trade policies were the cause. The grain and dairy farms that were once the cornerstone of the regional economy have been hard hit by cheaper American exports. A farmer who once employed dozens of Mapuche as laborers can find himself forced to leave land fallow or sell out to the forestry companies.

Hector Tobar writes for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Co. newspaper.


We consider that the negotiations being held have left out the themes and fundamental rights of the Pehuenche communities of Alto Bio Bio.

The Chilean government and the four families whose land must to be transferred to ENDESA have been negotiating since mid-February. The objective of the negotiations is to come to an agreement before traveling to Washington, D.C. the week of February 24th to appear before the InterAmerican Commission of Human Rights. The content of the negotiations has not been made public, and has even been kept secret from the other families affected by dam construction who had protested with these four families. The following is their request that the final agreement address the social and cultural issues, and in particular the fact that their traditional cemetery will be flooded.

We consider that the negotiations being held have left out the themes and fundamental rights of the Pehuenche communities of Alto Bio Bio.

1.- We consider that the agreement only refers to economic recourses, and does not deal with the real issues. In other words, these agreements are over how much ENDESA will pay for the transferred lands rather than the effects of dam construction. Furthermore, the economic solution will affect only a few Pehuenche families, while dam construction will affect all the Pehuenche communities.

2.- This agreement does not deal with the fundamental issues such as the cemetery that will be flooded, their right that our sacred places be respected, respect for our religiosity and spirituality, and the respect for our family members who are buried in the cemetery, as well as our past generations and our ancestors.

3.- Considering that these fundamental themes have been neglected, we continue resisting, we demand an explication from the Chilean government that explains the proposed solution for our cemetery, our sacred places, and with our deceased family members, as well as our cultural rights. This explanation should be provided before traveling to Washington, D.C.

4.- If we do not receive an explanation, we will send a communication to the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights of the OAS indicating that the agreement has left out issues of fundamental importance for the Pehuenche.

5.- We ask all the Mapuche organizations to act in solidarity with the Pehuenche who continue to resist and to not accept an agreement between the four families and the Chilean government that does not represent all the families affected by the construction of the Ralco dam.

María Curriao
President of the Indigenous Organization of Quepuca Ralco
Member of the Lonko Council of Alto Bío Bío
Concepción, February 17, 2003


Quepuca Ralco, February 20, 2003
Letter written to: Jaime Andrade
Sub secretary of Planning (MIDEPLAN)

My community has heard of the meetings that you, in representation of the Chilean government, have held with the families that have not been willing to transfer their property for the construction of the Ralco Dam, in Alto Bio Bio, VIII Region.

1. The cemetery of my community will be flooded, as you well know; yet we have not been invited to the meetings being held nor do we know the nature of the agreements that we have heard from the press.
2. The situation known as RALCO concerns much more than just the families who have refused to transfer their land. Among other aspects, there is the issue of the Cemetery of the Mapuche-Pehuenche community Quepuca Ralco. We have raised the cemetery issue with all the authorities who have visited Alto Bío Bío, and as a result we cannot understand how this issue can been neglected in any agreement. We need to know what will happen with our cemetery, which represents for us our Pehuenche cultural rights.

3. Our community needs to know how the Ralco Dam will affect our Mapuche cemetery, our spiritual and religious rights, our ceremonial centers, our respect for our ancestors, and our direct family members who are resting in the sacred places.

4. Our community does not deny the right of these four families to receive a good price for their lands, but we believe that the issues we have planted cannot be excluded.

5. The meetings have been private and variety information has been presented in the press. For this reason, my community requests to be informed on the content of these meetings and agreements. The media has said that there will be an agreement signed in Washington before the Commission of the Organization of American States. We request that the communities be informed before any agreement is signed.

6. My community Quepuca Ralco, asks the government directly to inform us of all the issues being discussed in their meetings and in this way we will have a better idea what will happen with our cultural rights. My community will provide our own proposal to the government in March.

7. The community that I represent is willing to discuss these issues with the government before the signing of any agreement. However, if we do not receive clear information, my community will send an urgent letter to the Inter-American Commission of the Organization of American States so that they can see that many issues which are important to the Pehuenche communities have left outside these agreements.


Maria Curriao Reinao
Community Organization of Quepuca Ralco
Quepuca Ralco, February 20, 2003


New Report Reveals a Government Controlled by Corporate Interests
For Immediate Release - December 13, 2002

Contact: Aaron Jackson Sanger.
ForestEthics, (U.S.) 541.738.9238; Kristi Chester Vance,
ForestEthics, (U.S.) 415.863.4570;
Miguel Fredes, CEADA, (Chile) 09-2959059 / 56-2-235-5802

Santiago, Chile —Chile’s government lacks the basic information, capacity and legal power to stop endangered forest destruction in Chile, according to a new report by Miguel Fredes, the Director of Centro Austral de Derecho Ambiental (CEADA). U.S. environmental organization ForestEthics released the report today as part of an international campaign to stop the destruction of Chile’s endangered native forests. Based on government data, over the next 10-15 years more than 2.5 million acres of Chile’s native forests will be destroyed. The campaign to protect these forests has been front-page news in Chile because wood is the third largest sector of the Chilean economy and the U.S. is the largest purchaser of Chilean wood.

“The Chilean government is protecting corporate profits instead of our forests," said Miguel Fredes, director of Centro Austral de Derecho Ambiental (CEADA) in Santiago. "Our trading partners in the U.S. should know the truth about the environmental tragedy that is happening here."

Mr. Fredes’s report is based upon admissions signed by Carlos Weber, Executive Director of Corporacion Nacional Forestal (CONAF), the only agency that is responsible for protecting Chile’s native forests. Among the admissions disclosed in the report are:

The Chilean Government does not have information about where new tree farms are replacing native forests in the region containing the largest remaining areas of Chile’s unique “siempre verde” (forever green) forests that include the world’s second largest temperate rainforest. In that same region, for every 900,000 acres of native forest, there is only 1 person who is "principally devoted" to enforcement of native forest regulations. For its enforcement activities, the Chilean Government uses an outdated definition of "native forest" that leaves many native forests outside the government’s jurisdiction. Chile's Government has not assessed the ecological or social importance of the country’s native forests.

“This report stigmatizes all wood from Chile and signals grave trouble for the Chilean wood industry. Unlike the Chilean government, American consumers will not participate in the destruction of endangered forests,” said Aaron Sanger, Director of the Wood Campaign at ForestEthics.

ForestEthics protects endangered forests and supports the communities that rely on those forests by changing the way that paper and wood are made and used in America. For more information and to view the full report, please visit

For a faxed copy of the admission signed by the Chilean government, please contact Aaron Sanger –, (U.S.) 541.738.9238. source: