At 11 a.m. in Santigao on Friday, August 3rd, President Sebastián Piñera announced actions the government would take to address the challenges faced by the Mapuche people. The announcement allowed Piñera to elaborate on his “Development Plan for the Araucanía Region” or “Plan Araucanía” as it is often referred to. Specifically, Piñera announced an initiative to build a multicultural school in Ercilla, five hospitals throughout the region, and to implement a consultation process that conforms with ILO Convention 169.
President Piñera’s announcement comes just one day after the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called on the Chilean government to act to protect Mapuche youth in the Araucanía Region. The Commission’s actions were prompted by violence that erupted in the area on July 23rd. Accounts from that event indicate that more than 200 police officers (carabineros) were ordered to remove approximately 60 Mapuche protestors. In the process five Mapuche youth were injured — two of whom were shot with buckshot. During Piñera’s announcement, the President indicated that a full investigation would be conducted into the actions of the police officers and that those affected would be properly redressed.
The President’s news was met skeptically by many Mapuche organizations and individuals whose comments littered the Chilean news. For example, Meulen Huenchu, the spokeswoman for the Mapuche Territorial Alliance (la Alianza Territorial Mapuche) called the announcement “more of the same” and referred to Piñera as the ringleader of a circus filled with clowns who follow him around. A leader of the Mapuche Territorial Alliance, Mijael Carbone, put it this way: “Neither education, nor health is the real problem in this area. Until real issues are addressed with direct consultation with the communities and the government sees the reality here and the true needs of the Mapuche people — which is land and territory — there will be no development of the Mapuche people.” Many others echoed the criticism that land was never mentioned during Piñera’s announcement.
Not everyone met the announcement with such skepticism. The director of the National Institute of Human Rights, Lorena Fries, praised the President’s announcement as an important step in transforming ILO Convention 169 into a reality for Chile’s indigenous peoples. That said, the Director also met with the President for an hour and a half to discuss the police violence in the Araucanía Region and what can be done to ensure the safety of all Mapuche people.