On Friday, President Piñera announced to the country that a roundtable discussion with the Mapuche will commence in Temuco next week, specifically on the hill of Ñielol. The announcement came as a surprise to most and occurred on a grand stage–during the raising of Chile’s flag at the start of the Bicentennial celebrations.
In front of the four post-dictatorship presidents of Chile, Piñera discussed the debt Chile owes to the Mapuche people and how his administration’s most ambitious goal is the undertaking of what has been called the Araucanía Plan–an initiative that, according to the President, seeks to improve the quality of life and opportunities for development of the Mapuche people and generate a reunion with them.
The roundtable, which will begin after the Bicentennial celebrations have ended, will include the Minister of the Presidency, the Minister of MIDEPLAN, church leaders from both Catholic and Evangelical churches, organizational leaders, as well as representatives from the various Mapuche communities–specifically the Huilliche, Lafkenche, and Pehuenche. Although unclear initially, several individuals under the President have insisted that this effort has a different purpose than the discussions being held by Archbishop Ezzati with the Mapuche hunger strikers.
According to the Minister of MIDEPLAN, Felipe Kast, and the Minister of the Presidency, Cristián Larroulet, this roundtable is merely the next step in Piñera’s plans for the Mapuche, and is not a sign that the President has given in to violent demands for a dialogue. They point out that the roundtable will include a broad number of perspectives and will cover issues separate from trying to end the hunger strike. Additionally, it will include perspectives of those that may not align with those of the Mapuche people.
Although the hunger strike was not specifically mentioned by Piñera during his speech, the topic did come up throughout the day. In the afternoon, the President reiterated his call for the Mapuche political prisoners to end their strike and pointed out that the government has initiated a dialogue (through Archbishop Ezzati), and that both chambers of Congress are moving forward on changing the Antiterrorism Law. Thus, now it is time for the Mapuche to demonstrate their commitment to the process and to end the strike before someone dies. This position was repeated by La Moneda’s spokewoman, Ena von Baer, throughout the day as well.
Reactions to this announcement came from all over yesterday and will undoubtedly continue over the next few days. Some of the reactions are linked to below (in Spanish):
My initial reaction to Piñera’s announcement is that it is a good first step and his decision to announce it on such a large stage was admirable and, hopefully, shows his seriousness about the dialogue. That being said, I can’t help but think that while Piñera’s intentions may be good (and I can’t say one way or another whether they are), he and his administration still seem to be missing the point ever so slightly. The type of consultation Piñera is going to open up next week shouldn’t be considered a revolutionary new step because consultation is required under Chilean law since it adopted ILO Convention 169. In fact, from the sounds of it, Piñera already has a well-developed set of ideas for his Araucanía Plan that he wants to present to the Mapuche, which means that consultation should’ve occurred long ago. Maybe I am misreading the President’s words though and the intent really is to have dialogue and generate new ideas, but we won’t know that for some time. Despite my reservations, let me state that I believe the reality of properly implementing the right to consultation for a government is not something that can be done overnight. Every real change has to begin with small steps, and in the spirit of the Bicentennial, hopefully this is that first real step.