In an interview published today in Diario Financiero, Chilean Minister of the Interior Andrés Chadwick affirmed that he believes that various indigenous Mapuche groups – some of them militant – receive funding from abroad, particularly from Argentina.
When asked if these groups, which struggle in various capacities for recognition of rights, recovery of land, and greater autonomy, received foreign support financially, Chadwick said “one has that impression, although I have no evidence, but I believe that given their capacity for action and organisation, they have foreign funding”, adding “there are resources here and you have to ask yourself, where are these resources coming from?”
Chadwick went on to say that the matter is being investigated, and that “it is absolutely clear that there is participation and support from foreign groups, and from what we have been able to detect they are Argentine”.
According to the Complementary Survey of Indigenous Peoples (ECPI), there were approximately 114,000 Mapuche living in Argentina in 2005 and nearly 605,000 in Chile, although taking into account the number of Argentines and Chileans with mixed heritage would raise those numbers substantially. Most Mapuche live in the southern provinces of Patagonia, particularly Chubut, Neuquén, and Río Negro in Argentina and Araucanía in Chile.
Since the 1990s and the reintroduction of democracy to Chile, Mapuche groups have sought greater autonomy and the return and protection of ancestral lands. This has caused conflict with businesses and landowners primarily in the Araucanía region, with some radical indigenous groups causing property damage and directing death threats at perceived enemies.
Tensions have risen in the last few weeks after landowners accused the government of inaction and threatened to “go out hunting” Mapuches.
Chadwick outlined the government’s development plan for Araucanía, a multifaceted approach that would involve local union leadership as well as religious and educational organisations in aiding the various communities of the region, one of the poorest in Chile.
However, he also stated that the government would not hesitate in applying the Antiterrorist Law against militant Mapuche groups, a dictatorship-era law which allows prosecutors to withhold evidence from the defence for up to six months and to conceal the identities of witnesses.
“We will not give up, whether we go by the common laws or if we have to implement special laws”, he said.