On Wednesday, December 29th, ten Rapa Nui individuals were injured when a contingent of Chilean police — consisting of approximately 100 officers — removed peaceful demonstrators who were occupying the steps of the Civic Plaza on Easter Island. Of these ten, three suffered serious injuries, including fractures. Additionally, nine individuals — eight men and one woman — were detained. All these individuals were later released with the exception of one person who was kept because he had in his possession multiple Molotov cocktails.
The incident arose out of a peaceful occupation of the plaza by members of the Rapa Nui Parliament who had been demonstrating for nine months prior to this confrontation. Despite the fact that the protest had been occurring for so long, the Chilean government maintains that it is illegal and, following an order from Intendent Celis, special forces converged on the location to remove the demonstrators.
The actions of the Chilean government were met with swift condemnation from various sources. The President of the Human Rights Commission in the House of Representatives, Hugo Gutiérrez (PC), spoke out against the violence used by police in the confrontation and chastised the government for not engaging in additional dialogue with the Rapa Nui people.
Additional comments came from Senator Alejandro Navaro (MAS), who stated that the Chilean government’s treatment of the Rapa Nui is increasingly taking on the characteristics of their treatment of the Mapuche people. Further, he stated, that if the concerns of the Rapa Nui are not dealt with swiftly, Chile will find itself in international forums where it will be demonstrated that they have not upheld the promises they made to the Rapa Nui people over the years.
Finally, a spokesperson for the Hito clan stated that the incident clearly showed that the Chilean government does not have the ability to resolve Rapa Nui claims effectively. The spokesperson went on to state that President Piñera, Secretary of Interior Hintzpeter, and Regional Intendent Celis have chosen the path of violence even though other parts of the Chilean government — for instance, the National Institute of Human Rights, the Human Rights Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, and the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs — have requested that the dialoge continue and that violence be avoided at all costs.
This incident marks the third major conclict between Rapa Nui and police officers in the past four months. The first took place in September and resulted in more than 20 Rapa Nui individuals being forcibly removed from the Hotel Hanga Roa on the Island; and the second occurred only four weeks ago, on December 3rd, where dozens of individuals — including police officers — were injured.