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March 24, 2011
Werken Maria Railaf at the European Parliament.
Brussels, Belgium ( Werken = Special Envoy)


My name is Maria Railaf Zuniga. I am working since 2000 at the Mapuche FOLIL foundation.
Mapuche Foundation Folil is an independent human rights organization in the Netherlands.

Maria Railaf

Folil means "Roots" in the language of the Mapuche people. The foundation was founded on March 17, 2000 by Mapuche living in the Netherlands. The founders are mostly Mapuche politic exiles from the Pinochet era (1973-1989) which had to leave Chile. The organization consists entirely of volunteers. Besides giving of information about the culture and the human rights situation of the Mapuche People in Chile, FOLIL also supports moral, material and financial to various Mapuche organizations in Chile and Argentina.

Today I am speaking on behalf the foundation.

Before I Start I want to thank the UNPO for the invitation to be here today in Brussels and the opportunity to speak.

The main problems of the Mapuche is: Ancestral land, this is important for Mapuche People.
Mapu-Che means for a reason: People of the Earth.


Today I want to speak about some aspects of the problem;

- First I will tell you something about the Mapuche and the loss of ancestral land.

- Then I will talk about the anti-terrorism law applie by the Chilean government to Mapuche activist.

- Finally, I want to talk about the ILO Convention 169 and the role of companies such as the famous clothing company Benetton.

1. The Mapuche and their territory.

The Mapuche are the indigenous people of Chile and Argentina. Currently they are over 1.5 million Mapuche in Chile and approximately half million in Argentina.

Land is an essential part of their culture and they feel inextricably linked with it. Late in the 19th century the Mapuche in the two countries, lost their ancestral territory. This was taken over by the Chilean and Argentine state.

Chile and Argentina are called ultra-liberal economies where literally everything is for sale. Also the land.

The ancestral territories have been sold to forestry, energy companies and other multinationals. Forestry companies have widely planted eucalyptus trees. This damages the environment. And multinational companies such as Benetton, and others have bought large tracts of land in Patagonia southern Argentina. To graze sheep, they say.

Many Mapuche activist protest against the lost of land, through peaceful protest, but also by occupation of lands and reclaiming it's theirs.

Which brings me to the anti-terrorism legislation that is applied against the Mapuche in Chile.

2. Anti-Terrorism Law.

The Chilean government applies the anti-terrorism law in the case of Mapuche land occupation.
This means that they can be heavily punished and that the safeguards which exist under the ordinary criminal law are less. People can also be tried by military courts.

The United Nations has recommended to Chile that the anti-terrorism law can not be to applied against the Mapuche, but the Chilean government imposes this opinion to ignore. The Chilean government believes it has a duty to comply with that law when it considers the facts must be continue. The anti-terrorism law would be invalidated by the Supreme Court and this is not the case.

We believe that applying more stringent regulation is not the solution of a social conflict. There is a need of a long term solutions that should be considered. We believe that the government must defend its citizens. The government has a responsibility. Also for the Mapuche People.

That brings me to the role of the companies. They have in our view a responsibility. I will discuss this in conjunction with the ILO Convention 169.

3. ILO Convention 169

Due the selling of land by the government of Chile and Argentina to foreign investors, the Mapuche are engaged in a large legal conflict. This conflict has been over the years become more complicated.

There are many procedures carried out on land restitution. Many Mapuche often called upon the ILO Convention 169. This is an international treaty ratified by Chile and Argentina.

The ILO Convention 169 is based on recognizing the land rights of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. Recognition of land rights means designating a land where certain collective rights exist, especially regards foreigners entering the area and economic exploration and exploitation in that a particular area. In addition, the convention of consulting the community before deals are concluded for exploration and exploitation

Recently, two statements which have been referred to ILO Convention 169.


The first is a current issue and concerns the land conflict between Benetton and the Mapuche in Argentina. The Italian fashion brand Benetton is well known for it's 'provocative' promotion campaigns that appear to be socially critical. The Italian clothing manufacturer has bought territory in Argentina for their wool. Shortly after that, the land was occupied by the Mapuche, who claim a part of the country.

There are several procedures that eventually carried over to the detriment of the Mapuche have been different. An appeal to the ILO Convention was not approved.

What is striking in this context is that the Argentinian government says the Mapuche should address their reclaim to Benetton and Benetton refers to the government of Argentina

That brings me to my earlier question. Do companies have, and I am not just talking about Benetton, also a responsibility in this?

Beside Benetton there are ten other companies in Chile, like Endesa (A Spanish electricity company), forestry company Forestal Mininco, and individuals such as media mogul Ted Turner who share one issue: Mapuche People are reclaiming their ancestral territory which they bought.

Oil company Piedra del Aguila.

Another case is that of Piedra del Aguila oil company in Argentina. The case has also called up on the ILO convention. The oil company has bought land, lived by a Mapuche community. In the first instance the oil company had a deportation order given to the Mapuche people to convert their land,but the Mapuche are appealed against it.

The court in this case, the appeal is upheld because no account is taken of the ILO Convention. The population should have been consulted, as in that Convention.

We feel this is a good thing. Whatever the outcome, the ILO Convention has to be respected and implemented. And we therefore ask the Chilean and Argentine authorities to make full use of it.


I am not a lawyer so I do not know all the details. What is clear is that there are legal grounds to claim their ancestral land by the Mapuche. This is important because land means so much more for the Mapuche people. There is no CHE without MAPU, and without Che no MAPU, and without CHE there is no existence possible for the Mapuche culture.

The land, nature, is one of the key elements in the existence of the Mapuche. It's one thing to be deal with cautious the nature and to avoid the destruction by companies of it. We hope that the Chilean and Argentine governments come towards the Mapuche through the application of equitable laws and adjourn.

And we ask for a full implementation of ILO Convention 169. I would urge you all to pass this message to the governments of Chile and Argentina.

Thanks for your attention.