Saturday, December 18, 2010
Cable Discusses 'Myths' of Mapuche Conflict
The conflict between native Mapuches and Chile's government are "serious and merit attention," but at the same time, the problem is being sensationalized in the Chilean press, says a confidential cable from the U.S. State Department. "Destruction of property -- which accounts for the vast majority of all illegal Mapuche action -- is often displayed in full color and with bold headlines," notes the November 2009 cable, released by Wikileaks. "Moreover, positive or less incendiary news from indigenous communities -- resolution of localized conflicts, peaceful protests, meetings, or other actions taken to address Mapuche political concerns -- are often not covered at all." Quoting a Chilean official, the cable says 27 of 2,100 Mapuche communities are actively in conflict with landowners. A separate cable quoted former Interior Minister Perez Yoma telling the U.S. ambassador on Feb. 6, 2008, of concern about "the potential radicalization of Chile's indigenous population, including funding from foreign terrorist groups and/or Venezuela." Perez Yoma specifically asked for help in "following the money" to track financial sources. The FBI, the cable added, is working with Chilean police "to assist in identification and potential prosecution of actors within Chile." As the cables note, the conflict over ancestral lands is concentrated on a relatively small segment of the Mapuche community. Nonetheless, their activities continue to pose a security risk, even to some not directly involved in the conflict. Vandalism, arson and other crimes have created a threatening and unwelcoming environment that has retarded business development in the Araucania region, now one of the poorest economically in an otherwise vibrant Chile.