Date: Sat, 7 Aug 1999 14:37:42 -0500 (CDT)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rich Winkel)
Subject: RIGHTS-CHILE: Praise and Doubts for Gov't 'Indigenous Pact'
/** ips.english: 449.0 **/
** Topic: RIGHTS-CHILE: Praise and Doubts for Gov't 'Indigenous Pact' **
** Written 9:10 PM Aug 6, 1999 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **
Copyright 1999 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.
Praise and Doubts for Gov't 'Indigenous Pact'
By Gustavo Gonzalez, IPS
6 August 1999
SANTIAGO, Aug 6 (IPS) - A pact promoted by the Chilean government
with the aim of resolving increasingly complex conflicts with
indigenous peoples and fomenting development of native communities
drew praise as well as doubts regarding its effectiveness.
The business sector's refusal to sign the pact and the lack of
measures to address the problem of logging operations on land
claimed by Mapuche communities appeared to be the weakpoints of
the pact presented by President Eduardo Frei Thursday.
Land disputes between indigenous groups and logging concerns
and conflicts over energy projects such as dams have heightened
since January, with violent incidents in the regions of the Bio-
bio and Araucania, between 400 and 800 kms south of Santiago.
Frei's centre-left government initiated a dialogue with Mapuche
communities on May 28, recognising that underlying the conflicts
were factors of a social, economic and cultural nature, as well as
discrimination against ethnic minorities.
Although there were ups-and-downs in the dialogue, which failed
to put an end to the land disputes, the talks gave rise to the
"pact for citizen respect," which also constitutes a plan for
the development of indigenous communities.
The pact was signed in the presidential palace of La Moneda in
the presence of 1,200 special guests, including 800 Mapuche
"lonkos" (chiefs) and leaders of other ethnic groups.
Besides the government and Mapuche leaders, judicial
authorities, legislators, a number of mayors, and academic and
cultural personalities also signed the agreement.
The document was widely interpreted as a virtual "mea culpa"
by the government with respect to the conditions of neglect in
which Chile's native communities live.
Most of the country's one million indigenous people - of a
total population of nearly 15 million - have left their land over
the past few decades in search of better opportunities in
Santiago, where many live below the poverty line.
In the pact, the government commits itself to recognising
indigenous peoples in the constitution, and to ratifying
International Labour Organisation convention 169 on affirmative
action in favour of ethnic minorities.
One of the concrete tasks to be undertaken is an inter-
ministerial project, under which 280 million dollars are to go
toward housing, health, education, farming and infrastructure
projects in indigenous communities from now to the year 2002.
Part of those funds will be assigned to purchases of land for
indigenous communities, already decided on by the National
Corporation of Indigenous Development, a government body in which
native communities participate.
"Lonko" Arnoldo Ņanculef praised many of the measures
included in the new plan. But he protested the lack of proposals
for resolving the confrontations between indigenous groups and
logging companies operating on land claimed by the Mapuches.
Other leaders of indigenous organisations agreed with
Ņanculef's complaint, given that the disputes with the logging
companies are the main cause of discord and social unrest in the
Bio-bio and Araucania regions.
Francisco Huenchumilla, a parliamentary deputy of Mapuche
origin who belongs to Frei's Christian Democratic Party, said the
announcement of the plan "generated a series of expectations that
unfortunately were not met."
The Arauco-Malleco Mapuche Coordinator and Council of All
Lands, the most radical of Chile's indigenous organisations,
refused to take part in the dialogue with the government and did
not sign the pact.
The two groups insist that the Chilean state declare itself
multiethnic and grant Mapuche communities a statute of territorial
and political autonomy.
Felipe Lamarca, president of the Sociedad de Fomento Fabril
business association, said the business community declined on the
basis of the argument that the proposals already formed part of
Ricardo Ariztia, with the National Agriculture Society, also
objected to legal and constitutional aspects of the pact, although
he announced that his association would make its final decision in
the next few days.
Leaders of the Corporacion de la Madera, which groups Chile's
logging companies, said they did not take part in the signing
ceremony because they had not previously been presented with the
document drawn up by the government.
[c] 1999, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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