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Date: Sat, 7 Aug 1999 14:37:42 -0500 (CDT)
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: RIGHTS-CHILE: Praise and Doubts for Gov't 'Indigenous Pact'
Article: 72146
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.14090.19990808121615@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** 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 the constitution.

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.


Origin: Montevideo/RIGHTS-CHILE/

[c] 1999, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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