Responding to Repressive State Measures: The Fight for Autonomy and Territory

"Mapuche Reclaimed Territory." Part of the active land reclamations carried out by the Autonomist Mapuche movement.
“Mapuche Reclaimed Territory.” Part of the active land reclamations carried out by the Autonomist Mapuche movement.

We must begin by categorically reaffirming that this dispute is not over extensions of land – that is the concept of land as a commodity – but the reclamation and struggle to regain a way of life, an understanding of how to conceptualize the world and how to live accordingly. It is for a social and cultural form of organization. It is here where the concept of territory becomes effective, conceiving beyond its geographical specificity; is the place of traditions, histories, symbols, worldview, norms, dreams, and utopias. Certainly, this was the way things were understood by our ancestors, in the days of Reche and Mapuche reaffirmation; it is where culture and identity is constructed, where there is the reproduction of relationships that establish a social fabric, a worldview, an AD MAPU ADMONGEN KA. It is the projection of our people towards a better future.

Therefore, the defense and reclamation of our territory is the defense of our identity and its political structures, which is cultural, spiritual, and religious. It is the form taken by our people to reproduce materially, based on the land, understanding the relationship between humans and the environment.

It is for this reason that today, the conflict should be directed primarily against the real exploiters, those who directly undermine the Mapuche material and spiritual world. Today they are represented by the plunderers, the forestry companies, the conservative landowners. The struggle is also against the State and its legal and political institutional framework, while listed as protector of the interests of dominant groups.

Second, we must continue to establish the real situation that we live in today as a Mapuche Nation. In this regard we noted that what characterizes the relations of our people are that of domination, oppression and dependence on the State, a situation that began 130 years ago with the occupation of Wallmapu through armed violence. It is thereby, a relationship based on the subjection of a territorial system whereby plunder continues on a structural basis; the imposition of liberal norms regarding the law and property rights, as well as our forced integration to Chilean society, especially through education. Therefore, it is a relationship where our fundamental rights as indigenous people is, understood is denied in its entirety; that is the social, political and cultural construct of our society.

Third, we should note that domination and oppression we suffer from today is partly due to what is known as “Neoliberal governance,” which repositions the conservatives to take the lead in this country once again. That is, the local elites are those who exert the power of domination. In regards to the conflict, we are referring to the forestry companies and other private interest groups (such as large estate landowners) who through the media have generated real campaigns against our people, to the point of assigning the term “internal enemy”. Indeed the forestry companies, landowners and the media are aligned against the Mapuche cause and pressure the Chilean government to develop containment strategies, such as repression, criminalization, persecution and disruption of our Peoples’ most consequent expressions of struggle for territorial and political reclamation.

Articulated in these two large economic groups (i.e. forestry companies and large estate landlords) are the right-wing media, conservative intellectuals and most of the political parties in the “Alliance for Chile” Coalition and “The New Majority.”

arton769-485e8In this regard, we understand that the media’s influence is most definitely not minor (i.e. major newspapers such as El Mercurio, La Tercera, La Segunda), which have fulfilled their objectives  in stigmatizing and exacerbate the image of the “violent” Mapuche as terrorists that are funded and have international links. These mass media outlets have manipulated and manufactured information to the point of creating setups. They are responsible for the promotion and polarization of the conflict, as well as ultimately giving credit and coverage to all reactionary and conservative views of this country; in all, creating a true axis of power that expose the positions and discourse of the political class, intellectuals and government.

This is the way the State confronts the Mapuche movement that seeks to reorganize itself and struggle for our rights.“Neoliberal governance” is thus imposed, that with this new government only seeks to aim towards multiculturalism, continuing welfare state policies of integration and repression, criminalizing the Mapuche cause.

However, we must also understand that Neoliberal States are unstable and are therefore vulnerable to social unrest. Thus, they are forced to develop strategies for control and domination by creating a series of social mechanisms, developing devices for counterinsurgency, policies for criminalization and the production and/or fabrication of an internal enemy.

956-5Indeed, at present there is a strong challenge to the relations of the Chilean State with Mapuche Nation. The conflict has caused a crisis in the relationship. That is how the dominance of Power has understood has understood it, and is why the State has readjusted its strategies in the context of Social Counterinsurgency, using a multicultural model to lay out its plans, policies and how the distribution of land is to be set.

It is in this context that one must understand the social policies and programs as essential for the reproduction of the status quo. They are made ​​to disguise the predatory regime of accumulation, based on the appropriation and plunder of Mapuche land. The aim is to block the conflict to facilitate the accumulation of capital, which is maintained through the management of trading clients and welfare based on state subsidies.

These multicultural and social programs are aimed at promoting participation of indigenous peoples as a way to remedy the exclusion they have been submitted to. However, the trend is clear and points towards assimilation and integration, whereby an absorbing effect takes place in assimilating ethnic identities within the framework of “representative democracy,” and of course towards neoliberal economic growth. The multicultural character of “identity building.” Nonetheless presents obvious structural limitations and that are part of a strategy that legitimizes the current system. Therefore, these strategies are used only as tactics of social insurgency, which in the Mapuche case are aimed towards a potential social support base and are focused towards the most consequent of its anti-systemic positions, such as the CAM.


In order to understand State intervention more accurately in this new socio/political scenario, it is necessary to analyse the various initiatives that have been more strategic in isolating the Mapuche movement.

Firstly, there are many references to various legislative and indigenous rights reforms in existence, Constitutional reforms and international conventions that have been signed, such as Convention 169 of the ILO. That said, Chile is one of the most backward countries for its conservative nature; the prevalence of the Indian Act is indicative of its backwardness in regards to rights, since we are not even recognized as a nation.

454492_400There are different positions regarding Constitutional recognition, depending on the area that is assumed about Mapuche reality. Ideally, for the most recalcitrant, fascist, racist section of the Right, the idea of the Mapuche being physical exterminated would be the solution to a national problem. The other section of the Right insists in ignoring internationally recognized indigenous rights, arguing for the concept of the Nation State and being Chilean. For the newly renovated “Concertación Coalition,” now called “New Majority,” the aim is for multicultural recognition but through small and insufficient reforms in the framework of the current Constitution, so as to not affect the current model of neoliberal governance; a very comfortable position to take. This is a goal shared by most Mapuche organizations in recent times and as a result of the advancing processes of community struggle, especially those who claim the right to self-determination, thus continuing the legalistic and institutional interest of the State and the powerful interest groups. However, there is another position that we have proposed as the CAM, which is more coherent and consistent with the approach for autonomy and anti-systemic liberation; it is based on its construction in practice, and will struggle for it in various ways stated previously.

Secondly, regarding the issue of CONSENT or the right to consultation, participation and political representation; it is well known that consent has not had been held to account, especially regarding issues of development, territorial investments and/or infrastructure projects, which under current circumstances are held under Capitalist order. Only the Indian Act allows for a slight possibility of participation, but within the wider scope of things is practically nothing.

In this regard, we should note that recent announcements by the Executive branch of government in relation to establishing consent according to Convention 169, will most likely be through these same pre-established legalistic limits, and thus become obsolete in its effectiveness.

Third, there have been various development programs announced to build culture and identity, which is nothing more than the continuation of Indian policy that has been applied for almost two decades by the “democratic” governments that have focused on achieving “social integration within the coexistence of a rule of law.” Essentially, it is the forced integration embarked within the “Origins Program” as a model for understanding indigenism with a clear mitigating and containment factors in managing the material needs of Mapuche communities.

ConflictomapucheFourth, there are the dialogue and negotiation initiatives taking place in order to establish a relationship with the State. In this regard we should note that since the outbreak of the Mapuche Movement, there have been a number of these initiatives which have not gotten anywhere, except to ensure the so-called “social peace” that is sought by interest groups in conflict zones. We should remember the “Community Dialogues” initiative, or the indigenous development plan, various negotiation tables and the notorious Commission on Truth and a New Deal, among others. All of which have been proposals that have not derived more than very basic and inadequate welfare policies. It is needless to say that the CAM never participated in these events, due to both self- defining terms, as well as the lack of political will by the authorities to recognize our expression as valid partners to solve the conflict. The reason is simple; the CAM does not dialogue based on the basis of crumbs or deceit. Today once again, there is talk to establish dialogue with all sectors within the Mapuche Movement but the CAM and the autonomous movement Mapuche continue to be ignored, because the State insists on only recognizing claims of a social, economic or cultural nature; not in terms of political rights. Precisely because we know they will refuse to recognize these political rights, we will continue to raise the issue of self-determination and autonomy.

Finally, we will address the government policy of giving back land, which is the breaking point in the relationship between the State and our Mapuche People. In fact, it is the reason for the current conflict, and has developed a crisis of governance in Wallmapu.

To reaffirm our proposal, the fact remains that when there are conflicts over land there are several ways that allow for its solution, depending on the positions and the interests that have developed. There is a State route for land redistribution based on expropriation. In fact, there is a law in Chile for this very reason, which took root during the 60’s and early 70’s and contributed to the reconfiguration of the territorial map, benefiting the peasantry as a whole and partial Mapuche demands. However, this is the legal State route, and therefore represents the continuity of ideological colonialism, both structurally and symbolically, which does not represent us.

Therefore, we as the CAM have proposed a type of distribution based on direct action, mainly through productive land reclamation. We do not recognize State legalism and its institutions. This implies taking greater leaps, since we are engaged in the active reclamation of the land and its resources generating real changes. This is what we have covered extensively, and is known as the experience of territorial control as the way to reconfigure the territory and lay the foundations for autonomy. This also means understanding that communities are able to counteract the pressures of Capitalist interests and the integrationist policies of the Chilean government. Not to do so would vitally contradict the process of accumulating strength, due to the way in which the struggle is fought; whether it be expropriation  or under the logic of the market, these methods weaken the autonomists processes would cause a setback on the road to national liberation. Not only because we would continue being submitted under the framework of the system, but also because of the dependencies that develop with institutions and the market.

Unto the expropriations and experiences of territorial control, the State or rather “Neoliberal Governance,” and successive governments, also have a third way; the redistribution of land market through market assistance; i.e. within the framework of the Capitalist system. It is the route that goes in tandem with the neoliberal economic model, which in turn can reduce or eliminate pressure on governments to expropriate. Moreover it is the way of dealing with land reclamation struggles that are based on direct action, seeking to transform and bring about real change in the structures of domination as suggested by the CAM.

Even at present, the “New Majority” Coalition government insists on using the market, where the solution is to buy and not to expropriate. It is a type of policy that involves redistribution based on the will of an individual to sell, meaning that the system protects private property and a type of trade that is subjected to the discretion of an owner through commercial activity. Speculation can take place in relation to land. Indeed, the owners are forestry companies, large estate landowners or farmers, and may raise land prices, earning exorbitant profits in a commercial process that can become long and tedious; sometimes unworkable and have even led to acts of corruption.

No doubt this has been the most harmful State policy to achieve the containment of the conflict and is related to the strategy established for land transfer. Beyond being a way that promotes and defends the Neoliberal Capitalist economic model, it has had a boomerang effect for those in power. With the aim of containing the conflict, it has allowed for the ethno/cultural disarticulation of Mapuche communities within the territory; from the moment when the National Corporation of Indigenous Development (CONADI) intervenes in the land claims process, the land may be transferred to other communities in different areas which in recent times has been widely opposed by the majority of Mapuche Movement. This is simply the cost for an oppressive State that uses land as part of a social counterinsurgency strategy. Therefore we must understand these three-pillars used by those in power to manage the Mapuche Movement during the period new government; first, to deliver a few more resources through various social welfare programs and maintaining the policy of conditionally handing back land. Second, they will put more pressure to further politically isolate autonomist Mapuche expressions through State policies, for which they can count on the reaction of conservative public opinion. Third, the implementation of social and symbolic counterinsurgency, which means the militarization of the conflict zones, broad and selective repression, and the criminalization involved in exacerbated legal punishment, allowing for more political prison.

Unto this current ongoing process, we have the permanent dilemma of which way to go; the autonomist and insubordinate route of no negotiation or the route of assimilation to market logic. In such a scenario we conclude, continue the resistance and reconstruction our nation Mapuche people.



Hector Llaitul Carrillanca

Mapuche Political Prisoner CAM


El Manzano Prison, July 2014


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