Aug 13, 2013

UNPO Report Outlines Discrimination Suffered by the Mapuche in Chile

UNPO, in cooperation with the Mapuche Foundation FOLIL and the Asociación Tierra y Libertad para Arauco, submitted an alternative report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination drawing attention to the situation of the Mapuche in Chile and the widespread discrimination they face.

UNPO submitted an alternative report to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) ahead of its 83rd session during which the combined 19th-21st periodic reports of Chile will be considered.

The alternative report focuses on the discrimination suffered by the Mapuche in Chile consequent to, inter alia, the disproportionate use of the anti-terrorism legislation. The use of this legislation has far-reaching consequences for the Mapuche’s claim to ancestral lands, their right to peaceful assembly, their freedom of opinion and expression and several other rights.

The Mapuche are an indigenous people in Chile who, with a population of just over 1,5 million, account for 9% of the Chilean population. The systematic expropriation of Mapuche land in favor of foreign investors has severely damaged the Mapuche way of life and many Mapuche feel as though they are owed a “historical debt” by the Chilean government.

The Mapuche are the largest indigenous group in Chile but also among the poorest and most marginalized people in the country. Around one-third of all Mapuche live below the poverty line with the average income around 43,712 CLP per capita in urban areas and 29,473 CLP in rural areas. Approximately 80% of heads of rural Mapuche households have less than four years of schooling and less than 3% of the entire Mapuche population receives any further educational training beyond high school.

In addition to these disadvantages the disproportionate and unwarranted use of the anti-terrorism legislation has led to a skewed depiction in the media and to excessive and unwarranted use of violence against them by the Carabineros (uniformed police). In essence the Mapuche are constantly faced with adversity with regard to their plight and there have been little to no remedies for this discrimination.

The report concluded with the following recommendations to the Chilean government:

1. Ensure that the definition of racial discrimination provided under the Anti-Discrimination Law (Ley 20.609) is compatible with that of the ICERD.

2. Ensure effective implementation of the Anti-Discrimination Law.

3. Reform the Anti-Terrorism Act (Ley 18.314) to exclude arson and destruction of property.

4. Prosecute civilians indicted under the Anti-Terrorism Act in civilian courts rather than military tribunals.

5. Provide more due process safeguards under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

6. Drop the charges being prosecuted under the anti-terrorism law that are levied against minors.

7. Ensure fair and unbiased media representation of the Mapuche and their land claims.

8. Promote the development of indigenous media, including by increasing opportunities for indigenous journalists.

9. Ensure the Mapuche have access to the due process safeguards provided under the new Criminal Code.

10. Provide the Mapuche with trials before a fair and impartial judge.

11. Counter the unfounded reversals of Mapuche acquittals by the Chilean Supreme Court.

12. Thoroughly investigate, prosecute, and when appropriate, take punitive measures in instances of abuse by the Carabineros, specially where loss of life or the presence of women and children is present.

13. Encourage fair police practices, especially with regards to justified and proportionate uses of force.

14. Implement a mechanism which enables the restitution of ancestral lands to the Mapuche, with appropriate compensation for affected third parties.

15. Guarantee the Mapuche’s the right to peaceful protest.

16. Promote education about the Mapuche’s cause and ensure that their protests are being depicted in a fair and honest fashion.

17. Implement programs to alter the general stereotyping of Mapuche as being lazy and incompetent.

18. Implement affirmative action programs to provide Mapuche with equal opportunities with respect to work and education.

19. Implement stricter environmental legislation to guarantee the Mapuche a healthier living environment and decreasing any health risks they might face.

20. Implement educational programs at primary and secondary school levels to teach students about Mapuche history, culture and tradition.