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Cablegate: Northern Chile: Corruption and Low-Level

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSG #0942/01 2951924
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 211924Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3843
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION PRIORITY 3569
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 2135
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 0474
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES PRIORITY 1080
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 1810
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ OCT 5974
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 5744
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 1941

UNCLAS SANTIAGO 000942

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SOCI PHUM KCOR SCUL CI
SUBJECT: NORTHERN CHILE: CORRUPTION AND LOW-LEVEL
INDIGENOUS TENSION CHAFE LOCAL POLITICS

REF: A. SANTIAGO 733
B. SANTIAGO 767

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. In Chile's northernmost city, Arica,
relations between the indigenous Aymara community and the
overwhelmingly non-indigenous local political leadership are
somewhat strained. Nonetheless, the indigenous community has
successfully fought central government decisions that they
opposed and is committed to resolving political problems
peacefully. Arica has more than its share of corruption
challenges--a notable exception in a country known for its
transparency--with allegations of vote-buying, a mayor
recently convicted of fraud, and an accusation that the
leading mayoral candidate has accepted inappropriate
contributions. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) Until the War of the Pacific (1879-1883), Arica was a
part of Peru, separated from Chile by the larger city of
Iquique, 300 kms to the south, and the Bolivian port of
Antofagasta, 700 kms south of Arica. Chile's victory against
Peru and Bolivia changed this, extending Chilean territory to
these northern cities and cutting off Bolivia's access to the
sea. While more than 100 years old, this history is still a
critical part of relations between the three countries, with
Peru recently having filed a claim at the International Court
of Justice to redefine the maritime border between the two
countries, and Bolivia making periodic grumblings about
wanting to re-gain sea access. Poloff met with elected
officials, law enforcement officers, business leaders, press,
academic officials, and indigenous leaders in the Arica and
Parinacota region of northern Chile October 1-3. Septels
will report on border challenges and economic issues in the
region.

Resentment and Frustration, But No Violence, Among Aymaras
--------------------------------------------- -------------

3. (U) Arica's population of indigenous Aymaras--identified
as about 40,000 of the 200,000 people in Arica--account for
nearly all the Aymaras in Chile. Nonetheless, they are
dwarfed on the national political scene by the much more
numerous Mapuche who live south of Santiago. The Aymaras
suffered greatly under the "Chilenization" policies of
decades past in which speaking in their native tongue was
illegal and traditional Aymara culture was discouraged.
Today, the few Aymara towns which exist in this
overwhelmingly urban province are dying out as residents move
to the city for jobs and better schools and only the elderly
are left behind.

4. (SBU) Indigenous leaders in the small altiplano town of
Putre and in the capital, Arica, complained that Chile's
highly centralized government makes it difficult for their
voices to be heard about decisions--like granting mining
licenses--that affect them directly. But despite their
protestations of weakness, on several occasions the
indigenous community has banded together to successfully
fight economic development plans with negative environmental
impacts. And while many Aymara leaders complain about being
ignored, there are also some critical voices within the
community who say that the Aymara are overly reliant on the
state's paternalism.

5. (SBU) Unlike the sometimes violent Mapuche struggle to
the south, the Aymaras have resolved their differences
peacefully and are considered to be very well integrated by
Luis Rocafull, the "intendente" or centrally appointed
governor of the province. Aymara leaders in Putre and Arica
reported close ties with other Aymaras in Bolivia and Peru,
and Hortencia Hidalgo, President of the Indigenous Women's
Council, said that she and other community members are trying
to work with the Mapuche to move beyond a cultural agenda to
one that is more political, including proposals to amend the
constitution to recognize indigenous people; greater
autonomy; control over territory (e.g. similar to Native
American reservations in the U.S.); and increasing indigenous
participation in Chile's legislature.

Corruption and the Mayoral Election
-----------------------------------

6. (SBU) In a country that is consistently ranked by
Transparency International as Latin America's least corrupt,

this city of 200,000 is responsible for a disproportionate
share of Chile's relatively few scandals. A number of local
politicians, including the former mayor, have been convicted
of embezzling and misuse of public office, often related to
municipal services performed by their businesses. Socialist
Diputado Ivan Paredes suggested that the current front-runner
in the mayoral race, Waldo Sankan, has also been involved in
corruption. "If he's not affiliated with any party or
coalition, who is paying to run his campaign?" the deputy
rhetorically asked. (Note: Sankan recently left the Party
for Democracy (PPD) to run as an independent when the
center-left Concertacion alliance, which includes the PPD,
backed Radical Social Democrat (PRSD) member Patricio Zapata.
The latest polls show Sankan with a slight lead over
conservative Alianza candidate Nino Baltolu, with Zapata in
third place. End Note.)

7. (SBU) While Intendente Rocafull contended that corruption
was minimal and always detected eventually, members of the
indigenous community told Poloff that vote-buying and fraud
were widespread. For example, they alleged that mayoral and
city council candidates routinely set up day trips targeted
at Aymaras living in Arica but with roots (and voter
registration addresses) in the small town of Putre.
Participants are bused to Putre for a day of fun at the
thermal springs and a free lunch, taken to vote, and then
paid USD 150 for participating. As a result, while Putre has
a permanent population of about 1,200 adults, 5,000 to 6,000
votes are cast there in local elections. In a separate
incident, the mayor of Putre was recently featured in a 60
Minutes-style TV show in an expose of officials who misuse
official trips overseas.

8. (SBU) COMMENT: Chile's Aymara community takes a peaceful
approach to resolving political conflict, a welcome contrast
to the sporadic violence used by some extremist Mapuche in
the eighth and ninth regions of Chile. Nonetheless, the
community feels ignored by all sides--local government,
central government, and political parties. Arica's
corruption challenges, while not severe, are notable given
the country's overall squeaky-clean image. END COMMENT.
SIMONS

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