The Chilean president appoints a commission to solve indigenous people’s land problems

The Chilean president appoints a commission to solve indigenous people’s land problems


Chilean President Gabriel Boric met with Mapuche indigenous leaders on Friday and announced the creation of a commission to resolve land tenure issues in the South Araucania region, which has seen a recent spate of arson attacks.

Araucania is home to Mapuche groups, the country’s largest indigenous group, who are demanding the return of their ancestral lands, much of which is currently in the hands of private logging companies.

Boric said a Peace and Understanding Commission, which will begin work in March 2023, will consider national and international recommendations to resolve the violence in Araucania and “seek a solution to the conflict.”

The Chilean President warned that not everyone would be happy with the verdicts and deadlines set by the commission.

“It will not be possible to return the entire country. There are many cities in southern Chile that were built on land that was once Mapuche, and these cities must be preserved,” Boric said.

Some non-Mapuche Chileans “settled on this land and put down roots generations ago,” and their rights must also be respected, he said.

Radical Mapuche groups have carried out numerous arson attacks, mostly on forestry companies and their equipment, but recently a school and a church were also set on fire.

Boric made a surprise visit to the region on Thursday, branding the arsonists “terrorists” and “cowards.”

Hours after he spoke, arsonists set fire to a house and a truck.

The violence has left at least eight people dead in the rural area so far this year.

The radical Arauco Malleco Coordination (CAM), one of the main Mapuche groups in the region, dismissed Boric’s visit, saying it obeyed “the interests of the oligarchy, the power of economic groups that are directly opposed to the Mapuche cause.”

A previous attempt by Boric’s then-Interior Minister Izkia Siches in March to visit the area was marred by gunfire. Speaking to a local radio station, Boric said the visit was a mistake.

“We recognized that the situation in Araucania must be approached without shortcuts,” he said, adding that a “solid, robust agenda” was needed before the visit.

In the 16th century, the Mapuche resisted Spanish expansion into their territories, but were eventually subdued in 1870 by the Chilean army, who subsequently began establishing settlements in the region.

The return of these ancestral lands is at the heart of the Mapuche struggle.

Boric’s predecessor, Sebastian Pinera, deployed the military to Araucania in late 2021. The new president ended this operation but had to back down in May after another violent escalation.

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