Last Friday, at the round table discussions of Ñielol, the Chief of Chiloé brought up for consideration an ongoing land dispute between the Huilliche and President Piñera that concerns 91,000 hectares of land located in Tantauco Park on Chiloé Island. The land was purchased by Piñera in 2004. The Huilliche claim that the land is part of their ancestral territory and are demanding that it be returned.
The history of the dispute dates back to 1826 when Chile acquired Chiloé through the Tantauco Treaty with the Spanish. Prior to this Treaty, the Huilliche had been guaranteed rights to their lands by the Spanish, but Chile never recognized these rights when they took over the island. Over the next two centuries, Chile began taxing the land and it passed through several hands. Piñera purchased the disputed lands in 2004 for $5 million dollars (US).
Complicating matters for Piñera is the fact that, at the time of the sale, then-Bishop of Ancud, Juan Luis Ysern, warned Piñera of the claims against the land. At the time Piñera dismissed the warning and said that the dispute was between Chile and the Huilliche and did not concern him.
Piñera further alienated himself from the Huilliche when he held a contest to name the purchased lands and the name ultimately selected was “Tantauco Park.” This name mirrors that of the Tantauco Treaty, which is viewed as the document that illegally took land from the Huilliche. At the time the Huilliche called the naming “offensive” and filed a petition with the Chilean government to stop it from occurring, but the petition was never answered.
Similarly, the government did not want to address the issue last week when the Huilliche raised it. However, there are indications that meetings will be held in October to discuss the claim further. Since the issue was raised last Friday, Piñera has not commented on it publicly, although there have been reports that he is trying to sell the disputed land.