On Sunday, February 6th, Chilean Special Forces removed the Hito clan from the Hotel Hanga Roa on Easter Island. The Hito clan had been occupying the hotel for months in part of a more elaborate series of peaceful occupations throughout the Island. Their removal marks the final eviction in a series of evictions that have been carried out by the Chilean Government across the Island in recent weeks.The eviction took place at 6:00 a.m. local time on Sunday, lasted for approximately 15 minutes, and involved five protestors. Initial reports indicated that three of the individuals left voluntarily, whereas the other two were arrested and removed from the hotel. Government officials quickly reported that the ordeal had been peaceful and without incident, but a spokesperson for the Hito clan has claimed that there was unnecessary violence.
Specifically, a representative for the Hito family claimed that there was no court order for the confrontation, making the entire incident illegal. Allegedly, according to the spokesperson, the Special Forces used more force than was necessary as well — bringing more than 70 officers and breaking down windows and doors at a time when their was no resistance. Moreover, Marisol Hito — the clan’s spokesperson — accused the Chilean Government of enshrining an unwritten rule that “economic power is above the law, peoples and the common good.”
The Mayor of Valparaiso, Raúl Celis, responded to the Hito clan’s allegations of wrongdoing, calling them “absolutely false.” Celis explained that the measures taken had the appropriate authority and that they were conducted without violence. He also stated that just because people were removed from the hotel, doesn’t mean that any problem has been solved, and reiterated the need for continued dialogue moving forward.
According to Chilean media, the order for this final confrontation originated on Easter Island itself, and came from the prosecutor stationed there. Specifically, shortly after the incident, the Prosecutor for the Valparaiso Region clarified the situation, indicating that there was no order of eviction, rather, the Hotel Hanga Roa is now considered a crime scene that must be protected, meaning anyone inside had to be removed. This distinction seems to indicate that the order for the Special Forces to go into the Hotel Hanga Roa did not have any specific backing from the mainland Chilean Government, but rather was a decision made by a prosecutor to protect potential evidence.
Supporting this assumption is the fact that the Hotel Hanga Roa currently remains under police control. Additionally, on Tuesday, February 8th, seventeen Rapa Nui individuals will be “formalized” for “usurpation of property” under Chilean law. These charges stem from incidents similar to the one at Hotel Hanga Roa, where Rapa Nui clans were peacefully occupying lands to show that they do not support how the Chilean Government is operating on the Island, and to demonstrate that they want their ancestral lands returned to their control. Presumably, the scene and evidence that the prosecutor wanted to protect with the order to secure the scene is related to that court case.
Despite the removal from the Hotel Hanga Roa, the Hito clan has vowed to continue their fight. Specifically, they indicate that their intentions are not only to continue fighting for their ancestral lands in Chilean courts, but also their determination to take their claims before the Inter-American Court (a part of the Organization of American States). “This is just the beginning,” said Marisol Hito, “and we are going to go until the end when we can get back the land that the Chilean Government stole from us.” She added that they will go to the Inter-American Court not solely with their land claims, but also to try and bring about justice for the alleged human rights violations by the Chilean Government that have occurred over the past six months with the Rapa Nui protestors.
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