The insurrection in Chile and Mapuche dispossession

Firefighters put out bus set on fire by Chile protesters.

By: Edgars Martínez*

The so-called paradise of neoliberalism in Latin America burns in flames since 10 days ago. These are times of convulsions on a global scale and the ones causing such symptoms are the oppressed of Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras, Kurdistan and, recently, the Mapuche and Chilean peoples, who, in the midst of curfews, the military in the streets, states of emergency and ferocious repressive measures, continue fighting for a more dignified life.

It would be short sighted to think that the Chilean and Mapuche people have taken the streets and territories just because of the increase in the cost of public transportation in the capital. Beyond this, the popular revolt that plagues the “Latin American jaguar” today is the product of the accumulation of decades of rage and indignation in the face of the privatization and dispossession not only of basic services, but of life itself. They are the same colonial inequalities that the Mapuche movement has historically been denouncing faced with the loss of 95 percent of their ancestral territory, the product of “national development.” Thus, the neoliberal oasis of Latin America has meant a drought for the peoples. In this sense, it’s not surprising that the massive evasions in public transportation initiated by students on Friday October 18 became a plurinational rebellion.

It was in this context after three intense days of popular insubordination that President Sebastián Piñera declared publicly that: “Chile is at war against a powerful enemy.” With such words, besides defining for the media a posture that different successive governments have selectively been maintaining, he promotes the restatement of the figure of the “internal enemy,” which was necessary to fully unleash the military repression and justify it ideologically. Thus, in recent days the crudest state violence has been experienced since the times of the dictatorship, leaving a result of 19 dead, 3,193 people arrested, 1,902 injured and 88 legal actions for torture, homicide, sexual violence and other crimes.

However, this necro-political scenario is not new for some in the Southern Cone. With the so-called “democratic transition,” the internal enemy left the streets of the city and was embodies in the Mapuche that meter by meter began to recuperate its territory usurped first by the large landowners (latifundistas) at the end of the 19th century and, in the full dictatorship, by the forestry industry and multiple transnationals that gave shape to Chilean neoliberalism.

Unmeasured violence, criminalization and the application of the Antiterrorist Law was the response that the State maintained versus the processes of territorial recuperation that the Mapuche movement impelled. In this way the violence with which the State today represses the demonstrations of the Chilean people is no exception for the Mapuche people, who don’t denounce neoliberalism for 30 years, but rather 500 years of colonial violence and dispossession.

Now, through unity in struggle, the Chilean and Mapuche people have the Piñera government in check, which confronts a constitutional accusation, the request for resignation of his entire ministerial cabinet and the landing of the UN in Chile.

In the streets and in the territories the breezes of victory gradually begin to organize to open and walk through the big boulevards. And, although after 10 days of historic popular demonstrations, it’s probable that the most profound colonial, patriarchal and economic-political pillars of neoliberalism to the south of the continent will not be overcome, the people of Chile and the Wallmapu will no longer face their future with the fear inherited from the dictatorship. Never more. They are those below and they are going van for those above.

* Chilean anthropologist and militant in the Mapuche cause


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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