On Monday, July 18th, President Sebastián Piñera announced some major changes to his Cabinet. Among them was moving Joaquín Lavín from the Ministry of Education to replace Felipe Kast as head of the Ministry of Cooperation and Planning (MIDEPLAN). Lavín’s transfer means that he is now in charge of Chile’s national consultation policy. The transfer was unexpected, and a large number of Mapuche leaders have spoken out against both the general decision to make a major personnel transfer in the middle of a nation-wide consultation process, as well as the decision to put Lavín, specifically, in charge of the process.
Below are some of the many responses that have come from Mapuche leaders on the issue in the last week:
- Aucán Huilcamán, on behalf of the Council of All Lands (Consejo de Todas las Tierras), stated that the timing of the change and how it occurred–with no mention on how it might affect indigenous peoples–is a clear indication of the administration’s priorities. Huilcamán went on to say that he hopes that Minister Lavín has learned from his mistakes as Minister of Education and that he will approach a number of topics–especially land–in a new light.
- José Tralcal, the leader of the Mapuche Community of Padre las Casas, speaking on behalf of 36 Mapuche communities, asserted that the communities were frustrated by the change, first and foremost, because it happened without any warning or discussion with indigenous peoples. He went on to express that the communities know very little about Minister Lavín and have asked that the consultation process be delayed until they can obtain information and a better understanding of the new minister, and how his presence will affect the process.
- Antonio Cadín, the spokesperson (werkén) for the Mapuche Community of Juan Paillalef said of Lavín, “I don’t know if he has as much knowledge [as Kast] to address an issue as important to indigenous peoples as this one.” He went on to say that if Lavín approaches the issue like Kast, then there will be little progress, and added, “I don’t think much will change with Minister Lavín.”
- Francisco Vera Millaquén, the spokesperson for the Mapuche Community of Pepiukelen de Pargua, expressed his problem with the change by claiming that Minister Lavín failed at his job as the Minister of Education, only to be sent to handle indigenous consultation.