Crack­down on In­dian rebels shows shift in Chile

Con­ser­va­tive Pin­era re­verses course from pre­de­ces­sor

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY MAR­TIN AROSTEGUI

Chile’s new con­ser­va­tive Pres­i­dent Se­bas­tian Pin­era is in­tro­duc­ing coun­tert­er­ror­ist mea­sures to crack down on an In­dian rebel move­ment in south­ern Chile and ter­mi­nate an indige­nous land trans­fer pro­gram which some pres­i­den­tial aides call a “fraud.”

The crack­down is just one sign of a ma­jor change for this South Amer­i­can coun­try, as Mr. Pin­era, a bil­lion­aire in­vestor with hold­ings in fi­nan­cial ser­vices, trans­porta­tion and even a soc­cer team, re­claimed the pres­i­dency af­ter four years under leftist Pres­i­dent Michelle Bachelet. Mr. Pin­era’s agenda, which in­cludes tougher stan­dards on im­mi­gra­tion and reg­u­la­tory over­haul to boost the min­ing in­dus­try and at­tract new for­eign in­vest­ment, has been com­pared to the ap­proach Pres­i­dent Trump has taken in rolling back pro­grams fa­vored by his lib­eral pre­de­ces­sor.

The elec­tion is just the lat­est swing in an un­usual po­lit­i­cal pen­du­lum here, where con­sec­u­tive pres­i­den­tial terms are not per­mit­ted under the con­sti­tu­tion: Ms. Bachelet served as pres­i­dent

from 2006 to 2010, only to give way to Mr. Pin­era in 2010. Four years later, Ms. Bachelet won back her old job, only to see Mr. Pin­era stage a come­back of his own in De­cem­ber’s elec­tion, beat­ing Ms. Bachelet’s pre­ferred suc­ces­sor.

Get­ting tough on what the gov­ern­ment sees as an il­le­gal sep­a­ratist move­ment is a nec­es­sary first step in chang­ing Chile’s course, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials say.

“We plan highly com­plex prose­cu­tions fo­cused on ter­ror­ist ac­tions and [have formed] a spe­cial­ized anti-ter­ror­ist group in our po­lice to be more ef­fec­tive in our re­sponse and achieve bet­ter re­sults than we have had un­til now,” new In­te­rior Min­is­ter An­dres Chad­wick said fol­low­ing a visit to the Arau­ca­nia re­gion where Ma­puche In­dian rad­i­cals are call­ing for a sep­a­rate state.

Just last week­end, in­sur­gents am­bushed a con­voy of 16 trucks trans­port­ing lum­ber along an iso­lated high­way, burn­ing most of the ve­hi­cles and their cargo in what has be­come rou­tine oc­cur­rence in the re­gion where such strikes have al­most av­er­aged one per day.

Ma­puches are the orig­i­nal in­hab­i­tants of south­ern Chile who fought Euro­pean col­o­niz­ers for cen­turies fol­low­ing the ar­rival of the Span­ish in the 16th cen­tury. The Costa Rica-based In­ter-Amer­i­can Court of Hu­man Rights has rec­og­nized Ma­puche claims over the south­ern half of Chile and called on the gov­ern­ment in San­ti­ago to re­turn the land.

While a slight drop in the vol­ume of at­tacks has been de­tected this year, ac­cord­ing to the Arau­ca­nia busi­ness as­so­ci­a­tion, armed teams of up to a dozen men have be­come more de­struc­tive, caus­ing record losses to lo­cal busi­ness­men.

The owner of a com­pany that leases log­ging equip­ment to tree farms said that he has lost 40 per­cent of his ma­chin­ery in ar­son at­tacks dur­ing re­cent by groups known as Or­ga­ni­za­tions of Ter­ri­to­rial Re­sis­tance (ORT) which also go by var­i­ous Ma­puche tribal names.

They are also burn­ing Chris­tian Churches for of­fend­ing their an­i­mistic be­liefs, ac­cord­ing to Ma­puche on­line pro­pa­ganda. Five Catholic churches were torched when Pope Fran­cis vis­ited the re­gion in Jan­uary to ap­peal for peace in the con­flict by Chile’s arch­dio­cese.

Left-wing aca­demics ac­cuse Pres­i­dent Pin­era of seek­ing to “mil­i­ta­rize” the con­flict in Arau­ca­nia while ig­nor­ing its cul­tural and so­cial di­men­sions. “What’s needed are so­cial and in­te­gral eco­nomic mea­sures not more po­lice,” said Univer­sity of Chile law pro­fes­sor Gon­zalo Med­ina.

Eco­nomic aid

Mr. Pin­era has pledged to in­vest in in­fras­truc­ture and de­vel­op­ment projects in Arau­ca­nia. Chile’s poor­est re­gion. But he is also shut­ting down a gov­ern­ment land bureau called CONADI that has been man­ag­ing land trans­fers to indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties.

Ms. Bachelet, whose cen­ter-left coali­tion ranged from Chris­tian democrats to com­mu­nists, ac­cel­er­ated land trans­fers to Ma­puches through a sys­tem that boosted “con­flic­tive com­mu­ni­ties.”

Chile has one of Latin Amer­ica’s most ad­vanced busi­ness en­vi­ron­ments, boast­ing the re­gion’s low­est cor­rup­tion in­dex. But the land trans­fer scheme has come to re­sem­ble state-sub­si­dized rack­e­teer­ing en­forced by eth­nic vi­o­lence, ac­cord­ing to Felipe Silva, a lawyer for the trucker’s union.

As ter­ror at­tacks es­ca­lated dur­ing Bachelet’s ten­ure, CONADI’s bud­get grew by 60 per­cent even as eco­nomic re­ces­sion forced the gov­ern­ment to cut spend­ing in health and ed­u­ca­tion.

Close aides to Mr. Pin­era say that they have dis­cov­ered cost over­runs of over $20 mil­lion in re­cent land trans­fers to Ma­puche com­mu­ni­ties, many of which are com­posed by no more than 10 peo­ple some of whom are not even indige­nous, ac­cord­ing to An­dres Molina, a mem­bers of Congress and ad­viser to Mr. Pin­era.

Counter ter­ror­ist mea­sures be­ing con­tem­plated by the new ad­min­is­tra­tion in­clude the use of drones to keep watch on rad­i­cal­ized com­mu­ni­ties, ac­cord­ing to se­cu­rity of­fi­cials who speak of the need to en­hance in­tel­li­gence ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Ex­panded wit­ness pro­tec­tion pro­grams and use of un­der­cover in­for­mants are also among the mea­sures be­ing con­tem­plated with a view to gain­ing more ter­ror­ist con­vic­tions.

More broadly, po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts here see a ris­ing num­ber of po­lit­i­cal lead­ers in South Amer­ica who are broadly sym­pa­thetic to Pres­i­dent Trump’s agenda. Mr. Pin­era and Ar­gentina’s Pres­i­dent Mauri­cio Macri are, like the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent, suc­cess­ful busi­ness­men elected on a plat­form of boost­ing the pri­vate sec­tor and re­duc­ing the role of the state in the econ­omy.

“Like Trump, the re­cently elected pres­i­dents of Ar­gentina and Chile, Mauri­cio Macri and Se­bas­tian Pin­era, are busi­ness moguls-turned-politi­cians who came into of­fice prais­ing the virtues of ap­ply­ing busi­ness strate­gies to the job of gov­ern­ing,” Omar G. En­car­na­cion, a pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal stud­ies at Bard Col­lege, in a blog post for For­eign Pol­icy mag­a­zine this week. “This is a stark de­par­ture for Latin Amer­ica, whose right-wing lead­ers have tra­di­tion­ally been mil­i­tary men on horse­back.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

HARD LINE: Chile’s Pres­i­dent Se­bas­tian Pin­era in­tro­duced tougher im­mi­gra­tion stan­dards.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ma­puches are the orig­i­nal in­hab­i­tants of south­ern Chile who fought against Euro­pean col­o­niz­ers for cen­turies fol­low­ing the ar­rival of the Span­ish in the 16th cen­tury. They want this land re­turned. Chile’s new pres­i­dent has cracked down on the...

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