Pres­i­den­tial apol­ogy for ‘peo­ple of the land’

Sunday Star-Times - - WORLD -

Pres­i­dent Michelle Bachelet has asked for for­give­ness from Chile’s largest in­dige­nous group for what she said were ‘‘er­rors and hor­rors’’ com­mit­ted by the Chilean state over the years.

Bachelet also an­nounced plans to pro­vide more re­sources to the Ma­puche com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing fi­nanc­ing for in­fra­struc­ture projects.

She also said she would send a bill to Congress call­ing for the cre­ation of a Cabi­net min­istry for Chile’s in­dige­nous peo­ples.

‘‘I want to ask for for­give­ness of the Ma­puche peo­ple for the er­rors and hor­rors that have been com­mit­ted or tol­er­ated by the state in our re­la­tion­ship with them,’’ Bachelet said in an­nounc­ing her plans at the pres­i­den­tial palace in the cap­i­tal, San­ti­ago, yes­ter­day.

‘‘Since the be­gin­ning of our repub­lic, the iden­tity, cul­ture, ter­ri­tory and liveli­hood of the Ma­puche were not safe­guarded as they should have,’’ Bachelet said.

She said that for more than 150 years, Chile’s in­dige­nous peo­ples had been scorned and dis­crim­i­nated against.

Ma­puche means ‘‘peo­ple of the land’’ in their na­tive Ma­pudun­gun tongue. They re­sisted the Span­ish con­quest of Chile for 300 years.

Mil­i­tary de­feats in the late 19th cen­tury forced the Ma­puche into Arau­ca­nia, south of the Bio Bio river, about 800 kilo­me­tres south of the cap­i­tal. The gov­ern­ment then en­cour­aged Euro­pean im­mi­grants to colonise the area.

Most of the 700,000 Ma­puche are poor and of­ten have no ac­cess to education. Many of them live on the fringes of tim­ber com­pany land or ranches owned by the Euro­peans’ de­scen­dants. But their de­sire for au­ton­omy re­mains strong.

A rad­i­cal fac­tion of the Ma­puche have oc­cu­pied and burned forestry sites, farms, churches and tim­ber trucks to de­mand the re­turn of an­ces­tral ter­ri­to­ries.

Chilean police have also been ac­cused of vi­o­lent abuses against the Ma­puche, in­clud­ing storm­ing into their homes dur­ing raids and shoot­ing rub­ber bul­lets and tear gas at women and chil­dren.


A Ma­puche In­dian ac­tivist blows a tra­di­tional trum­pet dur­ing a demon­stra­tion to de­mand jus­tice, in­dige­nous rights and land for their com­mu­ni­ties, in San­ti­ago.

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