Interview with Mapuche Political Prisoner Hector Llaitul Carrillanca: Our Struggle is Anti-Capitalist by Definition

Interview with Mapuche Political Prisoner Hector Llaitul Carrillanca: Our Struggle is Anti-Capitalist by Definition

“Our struggle is Anti-Capitalist by definition, otherwise it is impossible to reclaim what is our own,” from Angol Prison

Sentenced to 10 years for robbery with intimidation, 4 years for attempted murder against a Prosecutor and 541 days under the Interior State Security Law, Hector Llaitul Carrillanca, one of the latest Mapuche community members convicted by Chilean Justice, talks exclusively with La Chispa (“The Spark”) magazine on the Coordinator of Mapuche Communities in Conflict Arauco-Malleco (CAM), its alignments and forms of action, the national situation, the Left and over new Mapuche expressions such as the FEMAE and the ENAMA. The historical leader gives us his vision, his critics and reasons to reaffirm his position in the Mapuche struggle.

Once again, the Mapuche conflict seems to be in the pages of the mass media. The fire in Carahue and the latest actions carried out in Ercilla have begun a campaign which led by the Interior Ministry and the National State Prosecution, seeks to establish a new offensive of criminalization against the Mapuche cause. The “Summit of Security for the Mapuche Conflict in Araucania” is its name; Rodrigo Hinzpeter and Sabas Chahuan are its principle actors.

One week after the interview, a new raid took place in Angol prison where many Mapuche Political Prisoners are held. This is where Hector Llaitul, Mapuche community member and one of the spokespeople for the CAM, received us and gave a different version of the conflict. This is what he told us.

The Mapuche Struggle, the Left and the book with Jorge Arrate

Beginning the conversation in the topic shared with [other Mapuche Political Prisoners] Ramon Llanquileo and Jonathan Huillical, Llaitul begins to describe his relationship with Arrate and the launch of his new book of conversations with him on the Mapuche cause and the struggle for liberation.

“One of the things that must be considered in the debate is the cosmological view of the Mapuche conflict, which is many times misunderstood from a Western standpoint. Therefore it becomes necessary to explain, which is why I have thought of writing a book. I am not a good writer, it is difficult, however I am much better at debating, therefore I need someone to confront me and Arrate fulfills that role,” he says.

“First of all, I accepted the relation with Arrate as an author, but also considered him politically as well.”  “Arrate had moved steadily more towards the Left,” according to Llaitul, “over time he became highly critical to the Concertacion (Centre Left Government Coalition), he abandoned the Socialist party, initiated the MAIZ party and left once again. At the same time, he silently and disinterestedly moved towards the cause of the Mapuche Political Prisoners. Despite the fact that he did not know much about the issue, he put himself out there during the judicial process that we were facing, gave us his support during the hunger strike and did actions for us, knocking on doors, getting red listed. I think he became a sympathizer with the autonomist Mapuche movement and in particular with the CAM. We would like this to happen with the broader Chilean Left, which tends to underestimate the Mapuche struggle.”

“The classical Left difficultly recognizes the work that the CAM has carried out, something which has been done without them, and relies on its own construction, different of the classic reductionist Left that tends to objectify everything and does not give any value to the subjective factors such as cosmology or culture. The problem is that the Chilean Left and the rest of Latin America rely on foreign concepts, without having their own vision.”

–          Are you more in line with authors such as Mariategui then?

“Effectively, Mariategui stated ‘Neither calculated nor copied, but historically created.’ In the same way we appreciate the thoughts that are more local, such as Lipschutz (Chilean scientist author of ‘The race issue in the conquest of Latin America, ‘From Francis Bacon to Karl Marx and Other Essays’ among others). I would be in line the creation of the ‘Left’ so to speak, of a vision of Latin America, but from the Indian perspective and not through Indigenism, since ‘Indigenism’ is a vision from the outside in, which attempts to represent the ‘Indian’ and promotes integration. Within an ‘Indian’ perspective, the Indian recaptures their own cosmology. Some examples of Indigenism within the Left can be found during the period of the Popular Unity years [under Salvador Allende] where tractors were named ‘Ho Chi Minh’ or ‘Che Guevara,’ and even within Mapuche territory many land reclamations of the CORA, would have names like ‘Luis Emilio Recabarren.’ This would make Mapuche society be part of a greater whole, from the outside, that is to say the progressive movement and the Left would integrate the Mapuche to the project of society, which at the same time would allow our culture to slowly disappear.”

–          In contrast with other Mapuche organizations, there is a clear emphasis of the CAM to be Anti-capitalist in struggle? Can you elaborate on this?

“The CAM became a reference inside the Mapuche movement, principally in defining its anti-capitalist, anti-colonial and anti-imperialist character, which goes by a historical analysis that is developed by the CAM at the time it constitutes itself as an organization. In this way we identify three processes of invasion. The first by the Spanish, then by the Chilean State in 1881 with the ‘Pacification War of Araucanía,’ and thirdly/currently, the invasion of capital that generates a process of transnationalization of Mapuche Territory, where the diffusion of logging/forestry, hydro electric, water shortage, ocean (etc )conflicts begin.”

“Our struggle is anti-capitalist by definition because otherwise it is impossible to reclaim what is our own; not to do it is absurd. First of all, our people never had the productive relations of the capitalist type. Our cosmology impedes it; capitalism completely contradicts our way of life. Secondly, those responsible for the plunder and destruction of our Wallmapu are principally, capitalist investments, because its nature is to destroy and accumulate. Therefore we cannot just be against the Chilean State from a strictly nationalistic view, since it is part of the same framework, and responds to the interests of the neoliberal capitalist system. Other organizations also advocate for autonomy, but the CAM in particular bases itself in territoriality, because there is no autonomy without territory, and since we speak of territoriality, we inadvertently run into capitalist interests – this is a reality. Lastly, we affirm territorial control against capital to reconstruct our own forms of relations, between the Mapuche and their surroundings, which under no pretext can be capitalist.”

–          That is to say, political tactics in this sense are based on resistance and territorial control unto capitalist invasion. On that same line, in what way do those tactics make sense in the communities? How is worked out within the daily routine taking into account the mechanisms of cooptation and ideological colonialism?

“The work that is carried out, beyond confrontation, has to do with the re-affirmation of identity, of cultural and value based aspects. There are many people working day to day in the communities. In this way, culture becomes a motor for change. Then we stop and ask ourselves: who are we? Where do we come from? In this sense one of the achievements of the CAM and the Mapuche broader Mapuche movement has been the self affirmation of ethnicity. Nowadays, there are many more children with Mapuche names, Mapuche youth and women have begun to wear their traditional clothing and it makes them proud.  Therefore, today there is a greater consciousness of our own world, just and healthy, and that must be fought for, which allows for the idea of the liberation of a nation.”

“At the same time we dispute territory, because our communities are permanently in conflict with investments. The communities can see daily how the logging trucks pass by full of timber, their sacred places are flooded where hydroelectric plants are established, in the subsoil, mining explorations are conducted, therefore, resistance is a natural attitude of our people. It is in this way that people recover their dignity and generate a reaction from the communities, thereby making an internal potential that collectively can be very powerful.”

“Many experiences can be taken from this process, but as in every movement there are highs and lows, since the policy of the ‘carrot’ has great resources to co-opt leaders and its advancement is quiet, in contrast with the ‘stick.’ There are some leaders that would like to always appear as consequent, which can be confusing. We shouldn’t forget that Christian saying (which can be very useful) ‘you will know them through their actions.’ Just as there can be processes that make a lot of noise and give little fruit, we must look profoundly and really see if there is a confrontation with the system. If it is within the confines of reformist demands or the reclamation and development of territorial control; the practice of autonomy or the funding of projects, subsidies and you continue under the control of the State.”

–          What do you think in the case of the Mapuche oppressing its own People? Such as the case with Mapuche entrepreneurs or Mapuche contracted by transnational corporations?

“With Wallmapuwen we could say that we agree on some autonomist statements, but not how these would come about. We are also not sure about their position on the capitalist system. We do not work within institutionalism, we do not recognize them. The major difference is that we put ourselves out there in territorial disputes, risking ourselves together with the communities and not from urban spaces. They reform the channels and forms of [Winka] Settler institutionalism, such as through the electoral process to integrate a municipality or Congress. We are against integration, we seek to reclaim the social fabric and self-governance, and for that we must have our base in territoriality. They also promote an ‘intellectual and professional Mapuche’ as an end in of itself, as another type of elite. We on the other hand, aspire for the militant community member, and the role of intellectuals, professionals and technicians should correspond to the same logic, without any kind of privilege.”


“Said a different way, what Wallmapuwen or FEMAE are doing is ‘putting the cart in front of the bulls’ so to speak. They confront institutionalism with nothing and the State co-opts them, makes them play on their side. FEMAE demands the recognition of intercultural education in universities and join the demands of the student movement more generally. However, the idea of inter-culturalism rather than liberate us, makes us part of institutionalism, while confronting it on an unequal basis. There is no doubt that Western education, as an institution, is a right and is a tool that can be of much use for us all (in the same way the horse was a great tool for Lautaro), but it is not a demand as a Mapuche Nation.”


“Simple criticism as a form of struggle is not assertive. The political rights of our people confront State Capitalism, from the very base of the communities.”


–          What sense do Mapuche based in the city take from territorial demands?


“It should mean everything, since migration is a reality and a product of the loss of territory, displacement and with it identity. Now as the CAM, because of territorial principles as with cosmological aspects, people should return to the country. But we also have a sense of reality; we are not saying we should go back to the past, we want to reclaim the principles of the Mapuche world, to relocate them and we understand that is a process, especially considering the generations of Mapuche that have lived and reproduced in the city. It is because of this situation that perhaps, many urban Mapuche do not feel in line with the position of the CAM. The conformation of an identity needs territoriality. If we break with our territorial bonds, we lose our Mapuche identity. However, within rural settings there are many reserves that function as neighbourhood committees, and we see how they conform into smaller “communities,” through the current Indigenous Law, which promotes the atomization and subdivision of already reduced reserves. We say we must build the Lof, what the Mapuche understood to be a community, and for that we must recover our territory. We cannot construct the Mapuche world as our elders understood it, not just with people, but with nature, with the waters, hills forests – that is what gives the Mapuche its identity. We seek to reconstruct the Tugun (space) and the Kupalme (parentage), which cannot be done in the city. It is difficult in the country that has been devastated by investments, much less in the city.”


–          What role can be attributed to the international instruments of Law such as Article 169 of the ILO or the International Accord of Human Rights? In what way do these support your struggle?

“If we can see that these mechanisms are controlled global institutionalism, then we all know who it responds to. In the current conditions we cannot discard these tribunals of denunciation and positioning of the Mapuche struggle within an international context. No people that has sought their freedom has done so, neither various national liberation projects, nor any revolutionary processes. Especially when we are dominated by a state whose standards of respect of human rights is extremely low, much less if dealing with original peoples. The human rights perspective is just a small part of it; our struggle cannot be reduced to that specific line. What is in our interest is to position the Mapuche struggle on an international scale. We should, without a doubt, use the agreements and covenants as a judicial tool but it is not what is fundamental. Of course, these laws are not applied unless there are many favorable correlating factors, such as mobilization and struggle that force its application.”


–          In a recent publication, Fernando Pairican states in his thesis that the great failure of the CAM was in not generating a broad Mapuche movement, allowing for the State to isolate the CAM and to attack it directly. What do you think of that idea?

“Well, the post-dictatorship period and within the Centre Left Coalition governments of La Concertacion made it very difficult to construct organization and revolutionary spaces. The same thing happened to Chileans, where after the end of the dictatorship, organizations with more history lived through that process and were disarticulated through various intelligence and de-legitimization campaigns, which did not allow for a more advanced political project.”

“Actually, it is in this time that the CAM is organized, when the majority of the Mapuche organizations were co-opted by the policies of the “New Deal,” where many of them including those linked with the Left, were accusing us of being of the Right, since we continued to struggle in democracy. For us, La Concertacion (Centre Left Coalition Government) was the continuation of the Dictatorship. In the 80’s, I fought against the Dictatorship, and I can tell you that I never applied so many conspiring tactics as during the democratic era, when intelligence bureaus such as La Officina [The Office] and its collaborators ravaged the organizations of the radical Chilean Left. La Concertacion was a very difficult period to organize, due to the media campaigns, set-ups, intelligence operations, infiltrators to generate division (which were successful in a few cases). On the other hand, the majority of the Mapuche association leaders were members of the parties within the Coalition government and the Communist Party.”

“Secondly, yes, as the CAM we lost an ample base of social support, but it was for the necessity of operating through an underground network, which protects the militants in terms of security, but it restricts the possibility to expand in your work to reach certain spaces, where others arrive at, which just happen to be those that are not in favour of the position of the CAM, and influenced many communities to leave the reclamation of their lands behind and initiate a process of negotiation through the CONADI. This led to great divisions and fractured conflicts that are maintained even today.”

“On the other hand, there was a campaign of criminalization of the Mapuche struggle, but pointed and directed towards the CAM.  It is regrettable to say that many of our own militants unto situations of persecution during trials and being prisoners for example, have negated being part of the CAM. There was also indiscriminate repression towards the communities, violent raids, with dozens of people arrested who’s charges were finally dropped, shedding fear over the communities of what could happen if they worked with the CAM; that is to say, the policy of ‘taking the water away from the fish.’  Those are a few of the reasons to explain and understand the diverse processes carried out by the CAM.”

“Of course, we could have continued being an ample organization of communities, but perhaps, for that to have happened we would have had to renounce many of our principles and our political line. We could have accepted the communities carrying out negotiations, receiving subsidies or projects, but we rather step aside when these things would happen.  A self criticism could be that we were not able to convince everyone and were perhaps intolerant.”

“Even so, the CAM has already been in existence for 10 years and has been able to adapt to the varying circumstances, without abandoning its position.”

“In this way, there has been a policy of constructing groups of territorial resistance during the last few years, based in the figure of the Weichafe [Warrior] that has given continuity to the struggle after a period of reflux, and becomes a very important subjective element to the development of new conflicts and the continuation of others. We have also established alliances and have accompanied Mapuche communities and organizations in struggle, where many Lonko [Chiefs) and youth of different territories invite us or visit us to know our opinion regarding their conflicts. The important thing is to be able to keep contributing to the Mapuche struggle, with ideas, strategy, formation and self-defense.”

The political Ethic of the CAM

“Now there should be something very important mentioned,” Llaitul would like to add. “And that the CAM defines itself with being of a ‘political ethic’ which has been greatly recognized. First of all it is clear that our principle enemies are the forestry companies, the powerful and therefore do not indiscriminately target farmers or peasants. We are against that. Attacking the weakest even though they are on Mapuche territory is an attitude that is not of a Weichafe [Warrior] ethic. That line has never existed in the history of the CAM.”

“This comes with an economic and ideological analysis, in that the peasantry is also an oppressed sector of the system and thereby disfavoured; many of them live on Mapuche Territory due to the Agrarian Reform process. Power lies within the economic and transnational groups. Perhaps even many of the small Chilean agriculturalists have a Right wing discourse, especially in the IX Region, but the system still harms them.”

“The CAM targets those that blatantly cause the destruction of our territories, some areas that are sacred, advancing over the communities, but not against people, instead we target the assets of the companies.  That is why we speak of a line of self-defense, there is no offensive line. The CAM does not wish to shed blood, and we have always been very cautious about that, especially what it could mean for the communities.”

“There is also an ethic of the Weichafe [Warrior] that cannot fit into delinquency and if any have committed cattle rustling or robberies, they have been expulsed.  These cannot be called Mapuche Political Prisoners. It is because of this discipline that we have never had blood on our hands or any other acts that soil our cause. We want to categorically move aside from acts that are questionable and delegitimize the movement.”

–          Regarding the relation between the Mapuche and non-Mapuche fishermen in a common front issue, what do you think is the role that you play within the Revolutionary struggle in Chile? How do you see the perspectives of a joint political struggle?

“Our struggle can go together with the struggle of the oppressed, because we understand we have a common enemy. For example, regarding the Fishing Law, fishermen must now have a policy of territorial control, since they are workers, they do not profit – they only survive. More than solidarity, it is about strategically defending territoriality, and if said defense can be shared then so be it. It is very pleasing to see a struggle clarify itself; when there are certain hits to be made.”

“Personally, I think that there is a long road ahead for a revolutionary struggle in Chile, or at least to have the subjective factors and organization necessary. In this context, nothing can be discarded, and can make clearer proposals. But this needs practise, not just discourse.”

“Effectively, there have been important expressions of struggle from different social groups, but the majority have ended dealing out achievements within the established order without deep rooted transformations. Work needs to be done in order to give that qualitative step forward, and for that to happen there needs to be revolutionary organization in order to transform the social movement into a political movement.”

“Many interesting processes have been staged and these are necessary in order to have a clearer reference. For this there needs to much more elaborated thought that manifests itself in real struggles, that real insertion. We can see that today’s political parties are a thing of the past. For example, the student debate between Salazar and Vallejo confirmed this situation. On the other hand there are organizations that have dedicated themselves to the University, and have abandoned the popular world.”

“In order to construct from the oppressed there must be a definition or living and being in the people, as poor, and construct from there. We can see there still is lack of maturity and therefore no political change.  The traditional Left lost its base and moreover lost its conscience, it is just a renunciation, a re-accommodation, a political exertion from the most comfortable positions that do not represent any risk. There has to be conscience in that leadership in order to assume the costs and consequences of what that implies.”

The Student Movement

“Without a doubt we should recognize the struggle that students have developed, where the expression revitalizes the ideas of justice and the questioning of the neo-liberal model, which in the case of education causes much strife to many families.”

“With much respect we point out that we are more sympathetic to the High School Student Movement, for various reasons. Firstly, because they are less influenced from outside forces and on the other hand manifest a more combative attitude, since they are a less elitist movement, and more in line with the popular movement, the vast majority being children of parents that were high school drop-outs. Therefore the transformations begin there at the base.  A very assertive demonstration held in Santiago showed this in the decentralization of mobilizations beyond Santiago’s downtown core into different neighbourhoods, where the link with territorial organizations is fundamental.”

“We have observed the University students during the last little while a detention in the initial proposals, where this could just be a sign of exhaustion or a turn towards more comfortable political positions. This is a movement that has influence regarding the electoral system, which for some emblematic leaders, becomes their priority.”

“The positive thing is that it has been years since there have been manifestations as massive and transversal as there have been throughout the last few years. At the same time, the occupations and assemblies have allowed for the development of discussion and debate in a generation that is politicizing further and less intervened by reductionists and the machines of traditional political parties. It is a great opportunity for a revolutionary construct and the heroic creation as Mariategui would say.”

“Sincerely, we hope for the continuity of this movement, which should hopefully transform itself.”

La Chispa Magazine/Hommodolars

Distributed by: The Women’s Coordinating Committee for a Free Wallmapu [Toronto]

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