Mapuche Community Radio Petu Mogeleiñ
El Maitén, Chubut.
12th December 2013
Given the events that occurred last weekend in the Cerro León or Cerro Azuli, in Buenos Aires Chico, near the village of El Maitén, we feel the need to clarify the situation and to share our preoccupation at the continuing violations of rights in the conflict involving the Cañio, Ñiripil and Sepúlveda Mapuche communities, and a group that calls itself the ‘Autoconvocados por el Cerro Azul’. The latter are promoting several touristic projects in the communities’ territory, against their wishes.
In lands that are supposedly public, in which the Cañio and Ñiripil have lived for over a hundred years, the municipality is promoting a project of private capital, which has built a mountain refuge as part of its plan to establish a ski resort. That project originally envisaged the construction of 20 slopes, which were later reduced in number, and ultimately suspended altogether due to the illegality of the undertaking. Amidst a host of other irregularities, the project’s promoters did not conduct an environmental impact study, nor did they consult the Mapuche families who live in the territory. With the illegal felling of over half a kilometre of native forest, the case was taken up by the justice system, which is now investigating a scheme that was clearly conceived, although secretly, many years ago.
In this territory in conflict, ignoring a legal injunction not to alter the land in any way, the organisers planned a mountain bike rally, inviting participants from various Patagonian provinces. The families who live on the mountain, however, were only contacted a week before the event; once most of the building work, which involved the cutting and thinning of more native forest, had been completed. The Cañio and Ñiripil communities, faced with the intransigence of the event’s organisers, contacted their lawyer who submitted a legal note. One of the communities’ members subsequently received a threatening phone call from the event organiser, who asserted that the race would go ahead regardless. Faced with this situation, the communities decided to hold a trawun (an assembly) on Friday the 6th, at which they agreed to be present at the event the following day, to hold a ceremony on the site and to explain the situation to those who came to the mountain.
Far from negotiating, those sectors promoting the ski resort and bike rally instead used the media to broadcast a rain of insults, lies and distortion that perpetuated the virulent racist and nationalist discourses that have done so much harm throughout history. This media campaign, which also used anonymous pages on social networks, went so far as to accuse two of our compañeros of dividing the community of El Maitén. They targeted Mauro Millán in particular, who is a compañero with a deep commitment and a long and unassailable record in the struggle for the rights of the Mapuche people.
We say that this conflict was born well before El Maitén was founded as a village, although, as in so many other places, this history may be negated or ignored. This latest episode must be understood as belonging to the ongoing campaign exercised by certain sectors of private capital and the State. Many appear to forget that little over a hundred years ago, the State, responding to the territorial interests of the most powerful sectors of the oligarchy, initiated the mis-named “Conquest of the Desert”, a war that murdered thousands of indigenous peoples. Survivors were driven into a long and painful march of exile towards new lands which were already inhabited by other indigenous families, themselves fleeing persecution by the Chilean and Argentine States.
This divisive smear campaign, that silences the legitimate voice of the communities, is simply a diversionary tactic, an attempt to avoid tackling, with the seriousness due it, the debt long owed to the disadvantaged sectors of the village. Because it is clear that what makes the most powerful sectors of El Maitén raise their voice in indignation is in fact their intolerance of those groups whose rights have historically been violated and who, at a time when the National State recognises the injustices committed, constitute themselves as actors demanding that those rights be respected, but who in so doing, threaten the enrichment of these powerful sectors.
Our radio Petu Mogeleiñ is a mapuche community radio, and, since its inception, its primary intention has been to multiply voices in order to expand rights. From the start of this conflict, there have been serious violations of the rights to identity and to territory, as well as to communication. This conflict became more serious when, with the obvious bad faith of the events’ organisers who now call for dialogue, distortions of the words and deeds of those involved began to appear. Without shame, they exploited their vastly superior access to the media. They used the social networks, to which they majority of campesinos, paisanos and mapuches have no access; and wielding a shield of anonymity, they attacked and disqualified. Further, while on the one hand public officials expounded at ease and at length in local radios, on the other, members of the communities spoke from the mountain where there is barely a phone signal. And because they were not called, they had to pay, with the little phone credit they can afford, for the communication.
They urge dialogue, but what kind of dialogue? We have already been in similar situations in the conflict over the ski resort. There, they also called for dialogue. During a public meeting, however, they subjected us to an interminable monologue of the powerful sectors: professionals, officials, ‘traditional’ families taking turns, one after the other, to humiliate the Other, whose rights they have long denied. They question that this Other would construct her identity, empower herself. They accuse the Other of being violent, ‘hooded and armed’, reminding us of the ghosts invoked by the Right in Greater Buenos Aires when faced with the unemployed workers. They say that she does not belong to ‘normal’ society, they reproach her for a carrying sticks, when in reality it is the wiño that is raised, and this wiño belongs to an ancestral culture which is alive, despite the words of many.
Finally, we assert that violence is lying, violence is negating the Other, violence is obscuring the social, political and economic structures that make it possible for some to obtain property deeds while others remain, for hundreds of years, in precarity.
Accompanying Mapuche-Tehuelche communities
Radio Petu Mogeleiñ, for the freedom to speak and think
Mapuche Community Radio ∙ El Maitén
i Lion or Blue Mountain. The latter is the name the promoters of the ski resort have re-branded it.