On 23rd June 2016 Michelle Bachelet, the President of Chile, revealed her new “Plan of Recognition and Development of Araucania”, apologised for “having failed as a country”, and for the “horrors and errors” committed by the Chilean state against indigenous peoples. However, beyond this late recognition, in the aftermath of her second government and after having driven the criminalisation of the Mapuche with the application of the “anti-terrorist law” in the zone where they live, we think it is necessary that we pause in order to understand what the Government is really intending.
This plan tries to respond to that which the media have dubbed the “Mapuche conflict”, a terminology that subtly criminalises the cause of the Mapuche. In reality it revolves around the “occupation of Wallmapu”, of the occupation of the territory that historically belonged to the Mapuche. According to the historian and investigator of the Observatory of Indigenous Rights, Martin Correa: “When the Mapuche communities raise the point: ‘these lands are ours, we never sold these lands’, it is the truth. These lands were legally usurped, but not legitimiately by the Chilean state. And there is a continuity of this usurpation and the repression(…) We are talking about four generations of repression, of usurpation and of the death of those that the Chilean state does not want to take over”.
There has been a recent intensification of raids in Mapuche communities, with children and adults injured, the increase in policing in the zone and its “militarisation”. The ANI (National Intelligence Agency) and the Armed Forces work together develop a joint anti-terrorist intervention strategy, and the permanent threat of applying a “state of constitutional exception” decree, that will involve further restriction of the Human Rights of the Mapuche communities and to provide the Army with control of the zone …In other words, once more the same policy that has been applied for decades in order to try to subdue the conflict, with blood and bullets.
None of these problems are addressed by the ambitious “Plan of Recognition and Development of Araucania” that the President now claims puts an end to the conflict. The “anti-terrorist” policy driven by the government was not addressed in her message so we can expect that what follows in parallel to the plan recently announced, invalidates it as a result and condemns it to failure. In other words, for the television cameras there is a soft-handed “cordial” offer, and for the Mapuche, the stick if they do not accept the plan that is offered to them.
What remains clear in the government plan is that it will initiate a process of a new institutionalisation of the conflict, with the objective of prosecuting the Mapuche and rendering them invisible.
Although the constitutional process that intended a new Constitution for Chile has failed, the Government insists now in Wallmapu, on driving forward the implementation of an “Indigineous Constituent process”. This process above all has not been asked for by the Mapuche communities nor responds to their cultural horizon of conflict resolution. It is a strange component of the plan which will be an experiment and that of course will not respond to the true aspirations that the people have.
Apart from the creation of an onerous new bureaucratic institutional apparatus (ministries, institutes, funding, studies, subsidies, investments, etc, etc.), the intention is to drive “productive development” in the Mapuche zone. This is the magic wand that neo-liberal governments use in order to give a “solution” to poverty. Because, despite the speeches, the Mapuche are far from being treated as members of a nation, of a social group with their own motivations and complexities, and instead will be treated as “vulnerable families”, with all the evangelical and capitalist neoliberal commandments that “solves” all of the afflictions of “the poor” applied to them. This, without considering that the Mapuche are not nor have ever been a capitalist people, that accumulate riches, trade or “undertake” through small and medium sized (SME) businesses as the technocrats of social development like to categorize.
A relevant point in the plan that merits a mention is this part:
“CORFO (The Corporation of Chilean Advancement) will design a Forestry Fund, that will begin to work in the second half of this year, for the planting, management and operation of indigenous plots suitable for forestry that the owners, the communities wish to allocate to this end”.
Neither with the forest fires of last summer, where the combustibility of the monocultures of pine and eucalyptus remained evident, nor with all the complaints that the Mapuche make due to the drought and destruction that these plantations cause in their communities, does the governement rectify its continued intent to benefit these crop types which are so damaging for the Mapuche and farming communities, and for the enviroment.
Finally, as a finishing touch, the plan considers the implementation of a “Policy for the protection and the support to all the victims of violence in the Region”, a strange entity that seeks to leave everyone alone; above all the Christian Democrats and the right. As a result, the government aims to deliver new subsidies to the timber industry and big businesses, as a form of appeasing their demands after calming the “political violence” as alluded to by the SOFOFA (Manufacturers’ Association) representative of the businesses, the local administrators of the transnationals.
Just as over 100 years ago the Chilean state tried a “pacification of Araucania” by means of war and occupation by foreign colonists, today it is by means of a more “cordial” nature but no less spurious, attempting the cultural assimilation of the Mapuche in the “vulnerable families” category, a brutal “help program” that is used for the large opressed and exploited mass of multicultural Chilean nationals.