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Cablegate: Indigenous Rights, Social Issues, Energy Shortages

VZCZCXYZ0016
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSG #0098/01 0312014
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 312014Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2718
INFO RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 0776
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ JAN LIMA 5433

C O N F I D E N T I A L SANTIAGO 000098

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/29/2018
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR PREL SOCI CI
SUBJECT: INDIGENOUS RIGHTS, SOCIAL ISSUES, ENERGY SHORTAGES
ON MIND OF SEGPRES MINISTER

Classified By: E/Pol Counselor Juan A. Alsace for reasons 1.5 (b) and (
d).

------
Summary
-------

1. (C) Secretariat General of the Presidency Minister Viera
Gallo told the Ambassador January 30 that the GOC - and
Chilean society - are only belatedly taking seriously a
growing problem with Chile's indigenous (largely Mapuche)
population, which has never been fully integrated and is
becoming increasingly radicalized. Mapuche alienation and
protest activity could impact on issues such as terrorism,
energy, and development in environmentally sensitive regions.
Chile's energy shortage was the country's "biggest problem"
in the near term, although Chile was also struggling with
issues arising out of modernization and globalization, with
youth and women seeking their place in an evolving Chilean
society. End summary.

2. (U) Ambassador Simons paid a courtesy call January 30 on
Minister of the Secretariat General of the Presidency
(SEGPRES) Jose Antonio Viera-Gallo, whose ministry is
responsible for coordinating relations between the Presidency
and three sets of key political actors: the four parties of
the center-left governing Concertacion coalition, the
center-right opposition, and the Congress. The Ambassador
was accompanied by E/Pol Counselor.

-------------------------------------------
An Increasingly Vocal Indigenous Population
-------------------------------------------

3. (C) After opening pleasantries - Viera Gallo noted that
since Chile's return to democracy relations with the U.S.
have been very good across the board - the Minister was
briefly interrupted by two phone calls. The second was from
President Bachelet and the short conversation (topic unclear)
was notable for its formality, with no apparent warmth,
(Comment: This tracks with the common view that Veira-Gallo,
a political operative, was brought into the cabinet as a
"fixer" and not because he is in Bachelet's inner circle.)
The first call was from Archbishop Goic, who has been serving
as an intermediary between the GOC and hunger-striker
Patricia Troncoso, who has been protesting her incarceration,
the result of her involvement in the torching of a rural
farm, located on land that the Mapuche indigenous population
claim was stolen from them. The accord has been front page
news and the government has taken some heat for bowing to
Troncoso's demands, but also for failing to take seriously
the "Mapuche issue." As a result, Bachelet recently named a
"Presidential Commissioner" to head a panel to review how the
GOC is dealing with the long-simmering complaints of the
indigenous population (septel).

4. (C) Viera-Gallo agreed with E/Pol Counselor that the issue
cut across several lines, including terrorism, energy, and
development. The Minister noted that several Mapuche had
ties to the Basques, including possibly to the ETA. They are
involved in protests against construction of dams that would
produce hydro-electric power, impacting Chile's energy needs.
Mapuche are linked to NGO's opposed to development in lands
both claimed by the Mapuche and which are also
environmentally sensitive. Nonetheless, Viera-Gallo
continued, the Mapuche have legitimate concerns. Both
moderates and extremists, with some justification, view
themselves as having been "mistreated by Chile." While
essentially a conservative people ("they vote for the right")
they also have respect for the environment and are a
matriarchical society. Many are well-educated with strong
ties to similar indigenous or ethnic groups, including in
Europe. There is developing a significant divide between
young, more radical Mapuche, and older leaders who have
demands but will accept accommodation within the Chilean
state. The younger leadership seeks a separate Mapuche
entity.

5. (C) Viera-Gallo, who clearly evidenced sympathy for the
Mapuche, said they had not been integrated "at all" into
Chilean society. Chileans, especially the upper class which
identifies with Chile's European pretensions, have to accept
that the Mapuche, and other smaller indigenous groups, are
also a part of Chile's make-up. The Mapuche have have made
some inroads in this respect, reaching out successfully to
younger non-Mapuche Chileans sympathetic to their cause. The
Catholic Church is also increasingly involved with indigenous
concerns.

-----------------

An Energy Deficit
-----------------

6. (SBU) Viera-Gallo didn't hesitate when asked by the
Ambassador to enumerate the administration's challenges:
"Energy is our biggest problem." Domestic production and
supply from outside sources, such as Argentina, have not kept
pace with surging economic growth. Chile will face "serious
restrictions" in the upcoming winter months. Construction of
dams (hydro) is critical but faces obstacles from indigenous
and environmental groups. The potential for developing
geothermal power in Chile's north ("we are talking to the
Italians") is also hostage to indigenous groups in that
region, who are concerned about associated water rights and
shortages. Viera-Gallo said prospects would improve in 2009,
when LNG plant facilities would come on line. The Ambassador
noted that President Bachelet had asked him, at presentation
of credentials, to find ways to enhance U.S.-Chile
cooperation on energy. He had met across a wide range of
private and public energy experts and policymakers during his
first six weeks in country and would return to Washington in
February to work on next steps.

------------------------------
The Challenge of Modernization
------------------------------

7. (SBU) Turning to other challenges facing Chile, a
reflective Viera-Gallo worried about disaffected youth
disengaged from politics, "fatigued" with parliament and
political parties, although he stressed this was not yet a
crisis. Still, Chileans generally were dealing with the
cultural dislocations attendant on modernization, including
rampant consumerism ("the mall culture") and a sense that
life was overly complicated. Yet all Chileans felt they they
had to adapt and keep up, he continued, noting that in his
visits to rural areas, he was struck by the modern appliances
found even in the most humble homes. Educational levels were
on the increase with more college students, but job prospects
for those with university degrees poor ("PhD's driving
taxis"). Women are also facing change; as they are
increasingly educated they are leaving rural areas behind,
seeking jobs in urban areas. Chile is also welcoming foreign
labor for the first time in its history, with large numbers
of Peruvians entering the agricultural labor force. These
changes are fearful for many in Chilean society. The
Ambassador noted that U.S. society continues to face many of
the same challenges Viera-Gallo had outlined.

---------------------------
HDTV, IPR, Loss of Majority
---------------------------

8. (SBU) The Ambassador noted pending intellectual property
legislation in the Chilean Senate, adding that the Embassy
continued to work closely with the GOC and USTR to find ways
to address our concerns with the proposed law. He also made
a pitch for ATSC, the U.S.-backed digital television
standard, noting the lower cost for Chilean consumers.
Viera-Gallo agreed it was important for the GOC to make the
right choice on digital TV. Asked whether the loss of the
governing coalition's working majority in both houses of
parliament would affect the administration's ability to
pursue its agenda, Viera-Gallo shrugged: "It's not really a
problem; Concertacion has rarely had a majority but still
worked solutions."

9. (U) Bio Note: Viera-Gallo said he had two daughters
living in Brooklyn. The first, thirty years old, is an
artist, married to an architect. She has a studio and has
exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, and Chile. The second,
younger, is a writer, recently divorced from a well known
Chilean artist (Ivan Navarro) who, Viera-Gallo lamented
jokingly, is "making it big" after the divorce.

-------
Comment
-------

10. (C) That much of the meeting was devoted to the Mapuche
issue is evidence that Chile, which has long ignored its
indigenous population, cannot escape dealing with yet another
offshoot of globalization, in this case the rising awareness
of the Mapuche that their concerns are similar to those of
other indigenous or ethnic minority groups, are at least as
legitimate, and need be addressed by the government. The
danger lies in radicalization of the issue, potential ties to
extremist or even terrorist groups, and the use of violence
to push an agenda. Post will be following this issue closely
in the near term, including proposing how the USG might be of

assistance to the GOC both through intelligence sharing but
also promoting dialogue and finding solutions. End comment.
SIMONS

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