What is behind the anti-Mapuche campaign: extractivism, the media and a genocide that does not end

What is behind the anti-Mapuche campaign: extractivism, the media and a genocide that does not end

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By Darío Aranda

The extractive model: oil, mining, agriculture, forestry.
A multinational (Benetton) with direct influence in the political and judicial power.
State policies of dispossession and submission.
A genocide that never had its "never again."
Just some of the elements behind the campaign that calls for repression for the Mapuche people.


During the Menemism, the legal engineering that gave rise to the deepening of extractivism in Argentina was approved: mining laws, privatization of YPF, forestry law, approval of transgenics with the use of pesticides. But the implementation in the territories occurred during Kirchnerism. Two examples: it went from 40 mining projects under study (in 2003) to 800 projects (in 2015); from 12 million hectares with transgenic soybeans, it increased to 20 million (currently 22).

Macrismo continues that line: removal of withholdings for mining, reduction of withholdings for agriculture, labor flexibility for oil workers. More extractivism, more progress on rural territories, where indigenous peoples and peasants live.

Amnesty International counted a floor of 250 conflictive cases, among which it detected a point in common: behind it there are always companies (agricultural, oil and mining, among others), which act in complicity, by action or omission, of governments.

As it happened with the Desert Campaign, whose economic purpose was to include land in the capitalist market, Argentina in the 21st century repeats the history of advancing on indigenous peoples.


"Mapuche" means in Mapuzungun "people of the land." The Mapuches, like all the indigenous peoples of the continent, are based on the link with the territory. Their history, their culture, their philosophy, their life and their children, grandchildren and their future as a people depend on that territory.

A fallacious argument to attack the indigenous people of the south is to say that they are Chilean. Indigenous peoples have thousands of years of history, and the Mapuche People in particular existed long before the formation of the nation-state. That is, they are prior to the existence of Argentina and Chile. Article 75 of the National Constitution recognizes it: “Recognize the ethnic and cultural pre-existence of the Argentine indigenous peoples. Guarantee respect for their identity and the right to a bilingual and intercultural education; recognize the legal status of their communities, and the community possession and ownership of the lands they traditionally occupy; and regulate the delivery of others suitable and sufficient for human development (…). Ensure participation in the management related to its natural resources and other interests that affect them ”.

Faced with each media campaign to attack the Mapuches, academics repudiate the falsehoods of journalistic sectors. Last January, Conicet researchers wrote a text that summarizes hundreds of academic studies: “We affirm that the Mapuches are not Araucanians of Chilean origin and they did not exterminate the Tehuelches (…) The Mapuches are not“ Chilean Indians ”, but pre-existing peoples. This means that they lived in these territories before the States existed and that there were Mapuches in what is now Argentina ”.

Repressive journalism

“They denounce ties of Mapuche groups with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia),” the daily Perfil newspaper headlined on Sunday, January 8, in an extensive article, referring to the conflict between the Lof (community) Resistencia Cushamen and the Benetton company. The note, signed by Cecilia Moncalvo, accused: “As more data appears, the action of (Facundo) Huala and his group can be read as the germ of a violent way of protesting and engaging in politics. There are data, such as that in border areas the Gendarmerie sent more personnel, while Chilean deputies and Argentine journalists and producers mention the Colombian FARC as part of the financing of the group (…). It opens up questions about a previously liberated zone and arms trafficking from Argentina to Chile. Facundo Jones Huala would be the link ”.

Two days later, on Tuesday, January 10, there were fierce repressions on the Lof Mapuche. One in the morning (National Gendarmerie). Another in the afternoon (Chubut police). On Wednesday there was a third violent operation. Three repressions in two days. A Mapuche hunt. A dozen prisoners. The same amount of wounded. Two gravity. The image of Fausto Jones Huala, with a bullet in the neck, toured the country.

The newspaper Clarín was added to the anti-indigenous campaign, with an extensive article announced on the cover on Sunday, January 22, and a double internal page. "Facundo Jones Huala, the violent Mapuche who declared war on Argentina and Chile," was the title, signed by Gonzalo Sánchez. He cited six times official voices from the Ministry of National Security, Chancellery and Secretary of Security. All voices in "off", without name or surname, who accuse Lof Cushamen of events as unusual as they are alien to reality. According to Clarín:

-The Mapuches are linked to Kurdish groups and the ETA of the Basque country.

-They received funding from Kirchnerism.

-It states that the Lof Cushamen caused fires, kidnapping people and attempted assassinations, among other events.

No proof of all these facts is provided. Only the opinion of Governor Mario Das Neves and voice overs.

Gonzalo Sánchez, author of the article and editor of the newspaper, repeats that of Cecilia Moncalvo in Perfil: he links Lof Cushamen (and Jones Huala) with the Mapuche Ancestral Resistance (RAM) organization, when the community has never declared to be part of that organization . Second coincidence: Sánchez does not grant a single line to the voice of the Lof Cushamen, nor of its lawyers, nor of the human rights organizations that they accompany.

Infobae was not far behind. “Violence, anarchy and external support: the profile of two Mapuche groups that have Chile and Argentina in suspense,” an article by Martín Dinatale titled on August 9, with all voice-overs and no interviews with Mapuches. An article that could have been written by Patricia Bullrich.

Unusual the note of Claudia Peiró in Infobae. He accused the Mapuches of being financed by the English. "The Mapuche Nation, the original people based in Bristol, England." It does not provide a single proof that proves that relationship.

Clarín retorted. “Jones Huala redoubled the bet: he called for rebellion and armed struggle. From the prison where he is detained, the Mapuche referent openly called for violent action ”. Signed by the Bariloche correspondent, Claudio Andrade, known to the Mapuche organizations for their continual bordering on racism.

On the other hand, communicators, intellectuals, artists and politicians also stand out. They did not hesitate to cast suspicion on the Qom leader Félix Díaz de Formosa and, at the same time, silence the atrocities of the feudal government of Gildo Insfrán. Radio figures related to Kirchnerism relativized the Qom claim and even made condescending interviews with Insfrán. In the "best of cases", they were called to silence before the violation of rights. The journalism akin to Kirchnerism fervently supported oil exploitation in Vaca Muerta, although indigenous rights were violated there and it was also repressed (and is repressed). With the macrismo in power, those same journalists, intellectuals and artists are horrified and repudiate the violence suffered by the Mapuches.

Journalists from both sides have a coincidence: they write about an event without traveling the territory. They do not visit (nor will they visit) indigenous communities. They are desk journalists. And their lies have the worst repercussions: they legitimize repressions.


Baby theft. Disappearance of people. Torture Concentration camps. Murders

Argentine society suffered it in the hands of the last civic-military dictatorship.

The Jewish people suffered it at the hands of Nazism.

The Mapuche people also suffered theft of babies, disappearance of people, torture, concentration camps, murders. But there was never a request for forgiveness, no reparation or justice. There was no "never again" for what the indigenous peoples suffered.

Diana Lenton, a doctor in anthropology and professor at the UBA, sums it up like this: “The State was built on genocide. It was required that there be no more internal diversity. Treaties with indigenous people are annulled, the State guaranteed that they would not interfere in the constitution of that State. This is what is called constituent genocide, they are genocides that give rise to a State ”.


"Wiñomüleiñ ta iñ mapu meu" means in the Mapuche language "recovered territories". It is a desire, a vindication practice and, above all, a right of indigenous peoples to return to plots that were taken from them in the past. In the last fifteen years, and after exhausting the administrative and judicial instance, the Mapuche people recovered 250 thousand hectares that were in the hands of large landowners.

The urban petty bourgeois must remain calm: the natives will not occupy the apartments in Palermo or Recoleta, nor are they interested in the mansions of Nordelta. They only return to the lands of their ancestors, which today are in the hands of large companies.

Legalists must also agree: territorial recoveries are backed by international treaties, which rank higher than local laws.

"Whenever possible, indigenous peoples should have the right to return to their traditional lands as soon as the causes that motivated their transfer and relocation cease to exist," states Article 16 of Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO). , which has a higher rank than national laws. Article 14 also states: "Measures must be taken to safeguard the right of the peoples concerned to use lands that are not exclusively occupied by them, but to which they have traditionally had access for their traditional and subsistence activities."

The United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, approved in September 2007, highlights in its article 10 “the option of return” in the face of forced displacement and, in its article 28, it legislates that “they have the right to reparation, by means that may include restitution (…) for the territories and resources that they have traditionally possessed or occupied or otherwise used and that have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged ”.

"Indigenous communities in the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR)" is the title of the work on international law by Rolando Gialdino, former secretary of Human Rights of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, the highest court in the country . When analyzing the action of the IACHR, it addressed ancestral possession: “The members of the indigenous peoples who have involuntarily lost possession of their lands, and these have been legitimately transferred to innocent third parties, have the right to recover them or obtain other lands of the same extension and quality ”.

Territorial recovery implies much more than hectares: it establishes a different conception of the land, which challenges the concept of individual property in search of profitability and supplants it by a space of collective occupation, "ancestral territory", essential for development as an original people .


In 2007, the Santa Rosa Leleque Mapuche community returned to the indigenous territory: they recovered 625 hectares within what was then part of the Leleque ranch of Compañía de Tierras Sud Argentino (Grupo Benetton), located between Esquel and El Bolsón. The case had national and international repercussions. Rosa Rúa Nahuelquir and Atilio Curiñanco, community authorities, traveled to Rome with the Nobel Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel. They met with the Benetton family, who promised to donate land within Chubut. But the company only offered parcels that were unproductive.

The community did not accept and clarified that the indigenous peoples did not accept "donation" but "restitution" for lands that had been stolen by private parties. The case advanced in court, there was an attempt to evict, but the community remained in the place. Benetton never accepted defeat among other things because it would enable other communities to repeat the action.

In November 2014, the State (provincial and national) completed the territorial survey of the Santa Rosa Leleque community. Within the framework of National Law 26,160, it recognized the possession and use of the 625 hectares by the Mapuche People. The community always denounced the irregularities in the title that the Benetton company acquired (explained in detail in the book “Ese ajeno sur”, by researcher Ramón Minieri).

On March 13, 2015, there was a new territorial recovery in the Leleque de Benetton farm. “We act in the face of the poverty of our communities, the lack of water, the forced cornering of unproductive lands and the dispossession that has been carried out since the misnamed Conquest of the Desert to the present day by the State and large landowners. Added to this is the immense number of reiñma (families) without land where they can even subsist with dignity, ”explained the statement signed by Lof en Resistencia of the department of Cushamen and the Autonomous Mapuche Movement (MAP) as the basis for the action.

It was no longer just a bad example. There were already two. And they can be more.

Benetton unloaded all its legal machinery against the Mapuches and hired an international press and lobbying agency (JeffreyGroup) for a media campaign, both at the provincial and national levels. The head of JeffreyGroup in Argentina is Diego Campal, who presents himself as a “specialist in conflict resolution and crisis management”.

Periodically the press releases and high definition photos of the "attacks" that the Benetton ranch suffered would arrive. Its main recipients: the Jornada newspaper (Chubut), Río Negro (the most widely read in Patagonia), Clarín and La Nación. The same statements reached the office of the governor of Chubut, Mario Das Neves, and his ministers.

The media campaign took its first steps and linked the Mapuches with paramilitary groups (ETA, FARC).

Internal enemy

In December 2016, Governor Das Neves requested impeachment for Judge Guido Otranto for failing to convict Facundo Jones Huala (lonko del Lof en Resistencia de Cushamen). "We do not want federal judges who collude with criminals," he said in relation to the Mapuches. In addition, he urged that the population disobey the judge: "That people react, that they do not allow, no matter how much a judge is, to carry out this type of action."

The Ministry of Security, led by Patricia Bullrich, in an internal report in August 2016 accused the original peoples of Patagonia of federal crimes and held them responsible for criminal acts without providing any evidence. The internal report was titled “Revaluation of the law. Problematic in Mapuche territory ”and recognized that the Airport Security Police (PSA) carries out illegal“ investigation tasks ”and classified the claims as“ threats to social security ”. The Ministry of Security endorsed the discourse of the oil companies, which argued the "usurpation" that indigenous communities would carry out on oil fields.

A hundred organizations of indigenous peoples, Amnesty International, the Service of Peace and Justice (Serpaj) and the Permanent Assembly of Human Rights (APDH) issued a statement to alert about the "stigmatization and persecution of the Mapuche People." The text, entitled "The indigenous struggle is not a crime", questioned the government: "The Ministry of Security considers Mapuche land claims as threats to social security (...) The State privileges the interests of the oil companies and criminalizes the Mapuche people ”.

On June 21, a hundred members of the national gendarmerie arrived at the Campo Maripe Mapuche community (in Vaca Muerta, Neuquén), closed internal roads and escorted YPF crews to carry out new oil drilling. The community members asked for explanations, requested that they display the court order (they were never shown it) and demanded that they leave the indigenous territory.

The Gendarmerie even prevented the community from leaving their own land. “YPF uses the Gendarmerie to illegally enter Mapuche territory. They entered without consultation or authorization, with a totally excessive procedure, without saying a word, or displaying a court order. The members of the lof (community) were threatened and were held hostage in their own territory, "denounced the Xawvn Ko Zonal Council of the Mapuche Confederation of Neuquén, which questioned the" militarization "of the place and accused the Minister of Security, Patricia Bullrich, of an “escalation of repression”.


“To be indigenous today is to be subversive,” Jeremías Chauque, Mapuche, musician, producer of healthy foods (without pesticides), summarized with simplicity in a mateada. And he added: “We indigenous people do not accept extractivism. We will never accept it. That is why they consider us a danger ”.

Facundo Jones Huala, from the Esquel prison, was in a similar line: “The Mapuche People promote the reconstruction of our world, and the expulsion of extractive plants from the territory. As Mapuches we cannot be in rough lands, we cannot be Mapuche with oil wells or with mining companies. We need our land healthy, in balance and harmony. Restoring that balance is revolutionary today, it is altering the current order of extractive capitalism. That is why we Mapuches are a problem for power ”.


Faced with the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado, within the framework of a repression by the National Gendarmerie on August 1, Minister Patricia Bullrich pointed out against the indigenous communities: “We are not going to allow an autonomous and Mapuche republic in the middle of Argentina. That is the logic they are proposing, the ignorance of the Argentine State, the anarchist logic ”.

The Argentine Rural Society, promoter of the Desert Campaign and part of the last civic-military dictatorship, provided a statement: "Impunity for criminal and violent groups in the South must end" (in reference to the Mapuches).

The Mapuche Confederation of Neuquén replied to the Minister of Security: “The official Patricia Bullrich in her statements loaded with racial contempt and ignorance, builds a veritable salad of misconceptions. It does not know basic concepts of modern and evolved states that are assumed as Plurinational States. Our condition of Mapuche Nation is based on the millenary preexistence recognized by the Argentine Constitution itself. Denying this reality is typical of authoritarian and colonialist states that are unaware of diversity ”.

“A prlurinational state does not depend on the permission of an official. It is related to an existence of thousands of years, before a modern state of only two centuries of existence ", explained the Mapuche Confederation and stated:" Plurinationality is not a separatist or exclusive proposal. Rather, it is a tool for unity in diversity. If the Mapuches did not assume our nationality, we would be a people without history and worse still, we would be a people without a future ”.

The Indigenous Advisory Council (CAI), a historic Mapuche organization in Patagonia, also issued a document: “We repudiate the actions of the State in the face of the events that have occurred (the Cushamen) and we express our solidarity with the victims of state violence and their families . We demand the appearance alive of Santiago Maldonado and we hold the National State responsible for the current situation of militarization suffered by native peoples ”.

"We do not want the attitude of the State and society towards us to be one of repression, discrimination and racism," said the indigenous organization. He recalled that the Mapuche People have suffered fires, judicial and police persecution, death threats, harassment, raids and attempts to evict. And the CAI left a clarification: "We maintain our claims and firmness in our fight."


A recurring question is where the solution passes. And the indigenous response is usually simple: "Respect the law."

Argentina has extensive legislation that favors indigenous peoples: from the National Constitution (Article 75, paragraph 17), provincial constitutions, Law 26160 (brake on evictions), ILO Convention 169 and the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples. Current legislation establishes that indigenous peoples must have “suitable and sufficient lands” and that “free, prior and informed consultation” must be carried out in the event of any event that could affect them. Translated: no extractive company can enter indigenous territory without first going through a consultation process (which can take up to years) with the community.

Hand in hand with judges and prosecutors, these laws are not being enforced.

Why the default? Because it is a State policy that cuts across all governments: violating indigenous rights and benefiting oil companies, large farmers, agribusiness companies and mining companies.


Video: Mapuche: The People of the Land (June 2022).