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Political and social events from the Americas, with exclusive reports and interviews. Every Wednesday at 5.45 pm Paris time.



Latest update : 2010-02-24

Who should take the lead in rebuilding Haiti?

In this edition: as Haiti is still reeling from the earthquake, the focus now shifts to reconstruction efforts; in Chile, the indigenous Mapuche people are fighting to recover land annexed by the government over a century ago; and the US military is using an increasing number of unmanned drones that kill the enemy without putting soldiers in harm's way.

The Mapuche people fights to recover land, by Antoine Raux

Virgin forests, rivers, we are in Araucania, the heartland of the indigenous Mapuche people, 700 kilometres south to Santiago. A seemingly quiet countryside, but now considered a conflict zone by the Chilean state. Here, 10 years ago, the Mapuches, for a long time marginalised, woke up to recover their ancestral territory.

"Here on both sides you have private properties. To reach our community you need to cross these lands that are under police surveillance. Look! There you have a cabin where they are stationed 24hours a day with dogs", says Rodrigo Huenchullan, driving on a dirt track of Temucuicui commnunity.

After many illegal occupations, this autonomous community of 120 families has obliged the state to buy nearly 2000 hectares that had been appropriated by a forestry company. And the struggle is going on to recover more land. But anti terrorist laws, inherited from Pinochet, are still used to threaten indigenous activists.

"Here all the members of the community have been to jail. All of them know what it is to be imprisoned, to have to operate in secret. They all know what suffering is", says Jorge Huenchullan, spokesman of the community.

In the detention centre of Temuco, the provincial capital, many militants are incarcerated. Sergio Quidel, the leader of the Coordinnation Arauco Malleco (CAM), one of the more radical Mapuche groups, is among them. We have been authorized to meet him in the prison: "We have been accused of arson and attempted murder. But they can never prove anything. Every time we are victims of a police set-up. We are political prisoners", affirms the militant.

The redistribution of land to indigenous people began after the return of democracy in Chile. Since then 600.000 hectares have been returned. The Mapuche people claim 6 million. Every time the government gives back a property, it organizes a flashy ceremony in a hotel. A governmental party which is not to Gladys Trañalao's taste.

"This is a right, not a gift. I could have done without the ceremony. I would have preferred something simpler, and quicker." says this heiress of one acre of land that belongs to her father.

Nothing similar happened to mark the return of the 270 hectares of the Santa Margarita estate. In august, the assassination of a 20 year old militant accelerated the process. In an attempt to buy peace, the property has been given to one of the more violent communities.

"The policeman who killed one of our brothers has been promoted. When this kind of thing happens, we truly feel like we are from a different country", says a member of the Juan Catrilaf II Comunity.

The Mapuche people claim self government on all the territory that is historically theirs. But their experience leads them to fear that the new government will instead favour forestry companies that exploit the country’s rich natural resources.


Programme prepared by Gregory White



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