Cablegate: What We Got Here Is a Failure to Communicate:


DE RUEHSG #0767/01 2352050
R 222050Z AUG 08



E.O. 12958: N/A



1. (SBU) Photos of burned out farms and menacing masked
gunmen, as well as strings of editorials bemoaning the GOC's
failure to resolve the "Mapuche conflict," signal the recent
return to the headlines of Chile's long-simmering "indigenous
issue." Unlike in neighboring Peru and Bolivia, Chile's
native indigenous are a relatively small five percent of
overall population and Chilean governments - indeed Chilean
society - have largely ignored indigenous demands to right
perceived historical wrongs. Since the return to democracy
in 1990, however, successive left-leaning Concertacion
governments have made some effort to recognize indigenous
culture and address their demands, typically through the
restoration of "stolen lands," but also improved education
and access to economic opportunity. Moderate indigenous
leaders worry the "dialogue" with the GOC on these issues is
a one-way conversation, with GOC programs imposed without
sufficient input from affected communities. Extremists are
convinced the GOC is paying lip service only and resort to
violence to press demands. Indigenous leaders also differ
with the GOC aim to build a "multicultural" Chile, preferring
to establish an "inter-cultural" society. U.S. experience
with its own native populations - the good and the bad - is
viewed with interest and offers an avenue for U.S.-Chile
cooperation. End summary.

2. (U) E/Pol Counselor August 18-20 visited Chile's Eighth
and Ninth regions, spending most of his time in Temuco,
capital of the latter, a region known also as "La Aracaunia,"
the historical land of the Mapuche indigenous peoples,
Chile's largest native population. The Mapuche resisted
Spanish colonization - indeed they were never subjugated -
and even after Chilean independence from Spain in 1810,
maintained effective sovereignty over their lands (south of
the Bio-Bio river) until 1880. Over the past one hundred and
thirty years, Mapuche integration into the larger Chilean
society has been halting at best, beset by first overt and
then latent discrimination, by loss of ancestral lands, by
poverty and lack of educational opportunity, and by its by
own proud reluctance to assimilate fully. In the 1960's, the
GOC made some efforts at land reform, a process reversed by
the Pinochet dictatorship. When democracy was restored, the
center-left Concertaction government of Patricio Alwyn
renewed a commitment to integrating Chile's indigenous people
(these include, inter alia, the Aymara in Chile's northern
desert and the Rapa Nui on Easter Island). Since then,
successive Concertacion governments have proposed various
programs to further this process, the most recent being the
"Re-Conocer" (reaquaint) initiative launched by President
Bachelet (reftel).

A Lack of Opportunity

3. (U) Joined by Alvaro Marifil, national director of the
Corporation for Indigenous Development (CONADI), E/Pol
Counselor met with a group of Mapuche leaders in a
traditional "Ruka" (tribal home) located in the rural
indigenous community of Antonio Alki, 15 kilometers outside
Temuco. Lautero Llehue, the group's spokesman, said the
community's poverty was linked to inequitable land
distribution ("a family cannot survive on one hectare"), poor
infrastructure (the road in from Temuco was unpaved and
muddy), and lack of government investment in the region. A
young leader added he believed the GOC was well-intentiond,
but "not listening." The government, he said, arrives with a
program - such as provision of young plants or seeds for
growing - but then fails to ensure adequate irrigation. The
crop fails, poverty continues, resources are wasted. If the
GOC consulted with us, it would have a better understanding
of community needs. Another participant noted that the
bureacracy had to be more flexible. On the land issue, for
example, the notion of individual "ownership" was alien to
Mapuche culture. Family groups or entire communities
occupied land tracts, a concept not in keeping with Western
views on legal title. (Note: The Mapuche are also

characterized by a diffuse leadership. A key difference
between Chilean and Mapuche cultures is that the latter lacks
a hierarchical structure. There is no single Mapuche leader
or parliament who can make binding decisions on the "Mapuche
nation.") E/Pol Counselor noted that public participation in
government rule-making - as on environmental issues - is now
common practice in the U.S. We need a similar system here,
the group agreed, where community inputs would lead to more
effective, less wasteful government decision-making.

A Spike in Violence

4. (SBU) Dominating E/Pol Counselor's conversations with the
Intendenta (regional governor-equivalent, appointed by the
GOC), the Mayor, the local bishop, and NGO's, was news of an
attack August 17 against a land-owner, whose house had been
burned down by unidentified persons. The man's property had
been repeatedly targeted by assailants, who claim that his -
and many other tracts of land (including those owned by
multinational forestry interests) - had been stolen from the
Mapuche. Such actions have been common since circa 2000,
when the Coordinadora Aracaunia Mapuche (CAM) was founded.
The CAM is a radical, left-wing group that purports to
represent Mapuche interests. According to press reports, as
well as Temuco interlocutors, most of the CAM leadership has
been identified or jailed by GOC security forces.
Nonetheless, the CAM remains active and claimed
responsibility for the August 17 incident. GOC officials
have expressed concern that the CAM may have ties to groups
such as the FARC and the ETA.

5. (SBU) The attacks were uniformly condemned by all,
although two NGO representatives added "but look at the
context in which the acts take place." All agreed as well
that the CAM represents only a tiny minority of Mapuche, if
that. Several observed that the CAM may not even be all that
interested in Mapuche land claims, using it as a pretext for
more generalized complaints against globalization and the
state writ large. Nonetheless, the CAM is using the issue to
draw younger, disaffected (and poor) Mapuche into radical
action. The uptick in attacks has also generated
considerable editorial commentary over the GOC's failure
"again" to adequately address the Mapuche conflict, including
from the public security standpoint, a charge on which the
Bachelet adminstration is neuralgic, fearing it looks weak.

A Clash of Cultures

6. (SBU) Bishop Manuel Camilo was one of several
interlocutors who argued that cultural misunderstanding was
the driving force behind the indigenous conflict. Chile's
native people in the north, for example, are perplexed by the
Western concept of below ground ownership of mining rights.
But these are clearly a valuable resource that are not being
exploited by the Aymari. The same holds true for water
rights. The Mayor of Temuco, Francisco Huenchumila, himself
of Mapuche descent, argued for a cultural shift on the part
of the majority society, with recognition of Chile's
multicultural reality. Huenchumilla insisted that the
Mapuche also had to demand power - to include return of land
but also political representation in parliament and
government. A recognition of Mapuche culture and "right to
power" would lead to greater investment in the region,
helping raise standards of living.

7. (SBU) At the Universidad de la Frontera's respected
Indigenous Institute, Director Alejendro Hererra took the
"cultural clash" theme a step further. Hererra was highly
critical of Concertacion's "neglect" of indigenous affairs
charging that "only (first Concertacion president) Alwyn took
a sincere interest;" subsequent administrations put people in
charge of indigenous affairs who had no knowledge of the
issue "or had not even met an indigenous person." Hererra
also claimed that perhaps only 5-6 percent of funds marked
for indigenous affairs reached intended recipients, with the
rest lost to administrative costs and corruption. His
strongest criticism was, however, aimed at the key concept in
the Bachelet's "Re-Conocer" program - promoting a

multicultural Chile. Mapuche (and other indigenous
populations) argue for an "inter-cultural" society. This
requires first an acknowledgement by the majority society
that indigenous culture and society was damaged (beginning in
1492) and that recompense is due. Once that step is taken,
the "construction" of an inter-cultural society can begin.
Hererra allowed that recompense would necessarily fall short
of indigenous claims ("we can't go back to how things were")
but the process would allow a relationship that recognizes
and accepts differences "amongst equals."

Education the Answer

8. (U) Several interlocutors said poverty sprang from a lack
of land and, to a lesser degree, discrimination in access to
opportunity. But all were in agreement that a "miserable"
educational system was the key factor in maintaining the
cycle of poverty. Huenchumilla and Hererra both noted that
so-called GOC "scholarships" for indigenous provided a
stipend of CHP 40,000/month (USD 80.00) living expenses. The
GOC had to invest much more heavily in real scholarships for
indigenous youth, including sending them abroad. But it was
also critical to build infrastructure and better prepare
teachers working in indigenous regions. Bishop Camilo noted
that Mapuche excelled in school when given the opportunity.

The American Experience

9. (U) E/Pol Counselor repeatedly offered that the U.S.'s
more than 200-years-long-relationship with its own native
American population - the negative and the positive - could
provide a useful base of knowledge from which Chile could
draw. The U.S. experience included both federal and state
level interaction with native populations. Juan Jorge
Faundez of the Fundacion Instituto Indigena (an NGO
associated with the Catholic Church) suggested that U.S.
tribes with expertise in sustainable development could be one
area for exchange. Hererra and Jaime Lopez of the Public
Defenders' office both thought that U.S. tribal experience
with autonomous court systems would be another. Herrara
suggested as well that exchanges with the Menomonee tribe in
Wisconsin, with its experience in management of forest/timber
resources would be useful (much of Mapuche land is heavily
forested). Other U.S. experience not linked specifically to
indigenous issues - such as encouraging public participation
in law/rule-making - would also be welcome. So, too, would
efforts by indigenous groups in the U.S. to develop
non-traditional industries such as, but not limited to, the
gaming industry.


10. (SBU) At first glance, much of the conflict in the Ninth
Region seems to reflect the realities of the still ongoing
shift of populations from rural to urban areas. The
complaints aired in Antonio Alka - lack of opportunity,
children that can't be kept down on the farm - can be heard
as well in many small Nebraska towns. But in the end, Paul
Newman's iconic lament rings true. The Chilean majority
population views the "Mapuche conflict" as a security issue,
or perhaps an economic problem that can be addressed
(reluctantly) with money. It is certainly not a recognition
of legitimate, deeply rooted grievances, much less of a
legitimately equivalent culture. Indeed, the fact that all
indigenous are lumped together, in many minds, as "Mapuche"
suggests the level of incomprehension of cultures speaking
past each other. Majority Chileans would like nothing better
than for the "Mapuche" to assimilate. And the Mapuche, with
their long history of resisting integration, are not likely
to do so. The tale is not all bleak, however. Most
indigenous want to talk out their grievances; to sit and
dialogue in Mapuche culture, for example, is sometimes as
important as the solution. The USG might be able to
faciliate a conversation in which Chile's indigenous voices
can be heard by the majority Chilean society. End comment.

© Scoop Media

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