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Viewing cable 09SANTIAGO826, MYTH VS. REALITY IN CHILE'S MAPUCHE CONFLICT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09SANTIAGO826 2009-09-03 18:06 2010-12-13 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Santiago
VZCZCXRO8210
PP RUEHAO RUEHCD RUEHGA RUEHGD RUEHHA RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHMT RUEHNG
RUEHNL RUEHQU RUEHRD RUEHRG RUEHRS RUEHTM RUEHVC
DE RUEHSG #0826/01 2461805
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 031805Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5417
INFO RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID PRIORITY 0974
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 SANTIAGO 000826

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/BSC, INR, INL, S/CT

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/27/2019
TAGS: PGOV PTER PREL SOCI CI CO SP
SUBJECT: MYTH VS. REALITY IN CHILE'S MAPUCHE CONFLICT

REF: 08 SANTIAGO 856

Classified By: A/DCM Laurie Weitzenkorn for reason 1.4 (B).

1. (C) Summary: Despite sensationalist press coverage and a
popular image of bloody conflict in Chile's southern Mapuche
heartland, poloffs found that relations between indigenous
and non-indigenous communities were largely non-violent, if
often tense and distrustful. Three people -- all Mapuche
activists -- have died in the so-called Mapuche conflict over
the past ten years. Arson, vandalism, and peaceful protests
and non-violent activism have been far more common.
Opposition politicians have alleged links between the Mapuche
and foreign terrorist organizations FARC and ETA, but
government officials downplay these connections as mere
"guerrilla tourism." End Summary.

2. (U) Poloff and Pol Specialist traveled to the heart of
Chile's Mapuche territory, the regions of Araucania and Los
Rios, August 10-14. This trip happened to coincide with the
death of a Mapuche activist, Jaime Mendoza, at the hands of a
police officer in a conflict in Araucania on August 12,
further focusing domestic political attention on Mapuche
unrest. This is the first in a series of cables based on
meetings with urban and rural Mapuche community members,
government officials, church leaders, academics and civil
society members during this trip. Septels will describe
Mapuche demands and human rights issues.

"Araucania in Flames" and Other Sensationalism
--------------------------------------------- -

3. (SBU) A casual observer of Chilean news coverage could be
forgiven for thinking that violent Mapuche activists with
strong and active links to the FARC and ETA are killing
innocent civilians each week in the so-called "Mapuche
conflict." Opposition presidential candidate Sebastian
Pinera has declared that "Araucania is in flames." Chile's
major newspapers, which are generally conservative in their
political outlook, frequently run reports of conflict related
to indigenous concerns prominently on the front page.
Destruction of property -- which accounts for the vast
majority of all illegal Mapuche action -- is often displayed
in full color and with bold headlines, sometimes beating out
coverage of more severe crimes committed by non-indigenous
Chileans. Moreover, positive or less incendiary news from
indigenous communities -- resolution of localized conflicts,
peaceful protests, meetings, or other actions taken to
address Mapuche political concerns -- are often not covered
at all.

Conflicts Over Ancestral Lands
------------------------------

4. (SBU) Unsurprisingly, conflicts over ancestral lands are
the most frequent flash point for clashes. The Chilean
government's colonization policy of the late 1800s, known as
the "Pacification of the Araucania," led to the first real
conquest of Mapuche territory, which had never been under
Spanish control. Mapuches were pushed off the best
agricultural lands, which the Chilean government auctioned
off. Land reforms in the 1960s and 70s benefited Mapuche
communities as well as other landless farmers, but were
largely rolled back under Pinochet. Preparation for the
return to democracy led to a new deal between then candidate
Patricio Aylwin and indigenous communities in 1989. Aylwin's
victory was followed by a new indigenous law in 1993 that
included mechanisms for transferring indigenous land back to
indigenous communities. However, the ensuing 16 years have
brought slow progress on land acquisitions and transfers,
contributing to a Mapuche vision of 100 years of broken
promises from the Chilean state.

Social Protest or Domestic Terrorism?
-------------------------------------

5. (SBU) In contrast to the sensationalist news coverage,
the reality of relations between the indigenous Mapuche
community, their non-indigenous neighbors, and the Chilean
state is complex and sometimes contentious, but
overwhelmingly non-violent. While the Chilean public
associates Mapuches with rural areas of Araucania and
neighboring regions, 70% of Mapuche live in urban areas.
Santiago is home to more Mapuches than any other region.
Confrontations between Mapuches and others in Santiago are
rare, and many Mapuches go about their daily lives without
highlighting their ethnic background. Outside of Santiago

SANTIAGO 00000826 002 OF 003


many Mapuche communities have peaceful but tense relations
with their neighbors and the Chilean government. Frustration
and distrust are common, particularly in rural communities in
the regions of Bio Bio, Araucania, and Los Rios. Some
communities are engaged in non-violent activism.

6. (SBU) According to Interior Under Secretary Patricio
Rosende, 27 of Chile's 2,100 Mapuche communities are actively
in conflict with landowners or the Chilean government. Eight
of those 27 conflicts have turned violent. Since 1990, when
the Mapuche community began pressing the newly democratic
state for more rights and restitution of ancestral lands,
three people have died as a direct result of the Mapuche
conflict. All of the deaths have been young Mapuche
activists killed by Chilean police: Alex Lemun, a 17-year
old killed in 2002; Matrias Catrileo, a 23-year old killed in
January 2008; and Jaime Mendoza, a 24-year old killed on
August 12, 2009.

7. (SBU) While violence targeting people remains rare,
vandalism and destruction of property are more common
techniques used by communities in conflict. A single piece
of land, owned by Rene Urban but claimed by Mapuche
communities, has been occupied by Mapuche activists 62 times,
and has been subject to arson and other forms of property
destruction. Frequent attacks against property and
investment projects contribute to the lack of economic
development in the zone. Araucania has the highest poverty
and unemployment rates in the nation. The president of the
Temuco Agricultural Promotion Society recently told the
press, "No one in his right mind would invest today in
Araucania."

"Guerrilla Tourism" or Expanding Terrorist Networks?:
Alleged Links to FARC and ETA
--------------------------------------------- --------

8. (C) In meetings with Poloff August 24 and 20, both
Rosende and National Prosecutor's Office International
Affairs Director Jorge Chocair played down allegations of
ties between Mapuches -- particularly the often violent group
Coordinadora Arauco Malleco (CAM) -- and foreign terrorist
organizations like the FARC or ETA. Yes, some CAM members
have traveled to Colombia, Spain, and southern Mexico, and
may have even participated in some training camps run by
these foreign organizations, they said. A handful of
representatives from Askapena, ETA's political arm, visited
Mapuche communities in August 2009. However, Rosende and
Chocair both characterized these relationships as relatively
casual and infrequent, with Chocair describing it as
"guerrilla tourism:" traveling to rebel-held areas of a
third country for photos and meetings with little follow up.

9. (C) Rosende and Chocair both claim that the CAM barely
exists now, thanks to a number of high-profile arrests of
alleged CAM leaders. (Note: A September 1 press report
alleges that the CAM is recruiting urban Mapuches to assume
leadership roles in the organization. End note.) Jaime
Lopez, an Araucania-based public defender specializing in
Mapuche defendants, expressed his doubts to Poloffs on August
11 that the CAM was ever a terrorist organization, noting
that three successive court cases failed to demonstrate that
they had organized any terrorist activity.

10. (C) In contrast to these views from administration
officials, opposition leaders -- including presidential
candidate Sebastian Pinera -- have sought to emphasize the
connections between the Mapuche and terrorist organizations.
During an August 19 meeting with Poloffs, Senator Alberto
Espina stated that the Interior Ministry has evidence of FARC
links to Chile, including dates and routes of travel for 8-10
Mapuche individuals who attended FARC training camps. (Note:
Reftel describes Pinera and Espina's role in publicizing a
May 2008 Colombian intelligence report alleging links between
FARC rebels and Chilean communists, Mapuche activists, and
others in Chile. End note.)

11. (C) COMMENT: Disagreements between the Mapuche
community, non-Mapuche landowners, and the Chilean state are
serious and merit attention. At a minimum, such conflict
traps indigenous and non-indigenous community members alike
in a cycle of distrust, hindering economic development in the
region and preventing the full inclusion of Mapuches in
Chilean society. However, even with the most recent death of
a young Mapuche activist, the large-scale violent unrest that
many Chileans project on the region is overblown. Similarly,
despite vocal allegations in the press, the opposition has

SANTIAGO 00000826 003 OF 003


yet to produce credible evidence that there is significant
and on-going cooperation between the Mapuche community and
FARC and ETA terrorists. END COMMENT.
SIMONS