In September and October, 2010, a group of anarchists from North America traveled to Chile, Wallmapu (the Mapuche territories, occupied by the Chilean and Argentinean states), and Bolivia to learn the histories and current situations of their struggles, and, in their words “make the connections necessary to strengthen real and long-term solidarity…”
They arrived at an important time, less than a month after a major wave of raids and arrests in Santiago, during a crucial and highly supported hungerstrike by Mapuche political prisoners against the antiterrorism law and the repression of their struggle. And they have continued to tell this story of Mapuche resistance as it unfolds today.
Just this week, an author from the trip posted the following incredible update from Wallmapu in a recent series entitled “The Intensification of Independence”. (See the former posts for a glossary of terms in Spanish and Mapudungun.)
by John Severino / Solidarity Trip to Chile, Bolivia and Walmapu
Awareness of repression should never be turned into a list of cases and prisoners. Those who struggle must understand repression strategically. If the essence of repression is isolation, this means intentionally formulating our responses to overcome that isolation, both by connecting them to the lines of our ongoing struggle, and analyzing and thwarting the particular mechanisms through which the State seeks to isolate us.
In Wallmapu, that ongoing struggle is a struggle for the land, not as an alienated possession, but as a whole relationship outside of and against capitalism. Mapuche in struggle take over their traditional land, fighting with cops and landlords to do it, and sometimes burning them out; they block highways and sabotage the industries that would exploit their lands; and they farm, graze, and common in those lands, build their houses there, hold their rituals there, raise their children, marry, and bury their dead there, making their relationship with that land a solid fact.
Chilean state repression against the Mapuche demonstrates two distinct modes. One mode operates at a lower intensity, and is less likely to be recognized within the format of the anti-repression list that pretends to confront repression by reacting to its most obvious manifestations. This lower intensity mode manifests in constant surveillance, in raids that brutalize community members, traumatize children, and confiscate tools needed for day to day existence (as nearly every farm tool is a potential weapon). This mode levies psychological exhaustion, producing a negative incentive which the NGOs, development funds, and charity projects that offer a positive incentive away from struggle are always waiting to take advantage of. The Chilean state specifically deploys lower intensity repression to isolate Mapuche communities in struggle, dissuading travel between communities and obstructing those from outside who would visit Mapuche communities. Counterinsurgency in Wallmapu also means protecting and promoting the capitalist development that molds the landscape in the furtherance of social control: monoculture deserts of pine plantations that suck up the water, ruin the soil, and supplant the native plants and animals that make the Mapuche way of life—their medicine, rituals, food culture—possible; megaprojects like dams, airports, and highways that displace communities and accelerate military and economic intervention into the territory.
The higher intensity mode of repression seeks a hostage for every outrage against a democratic solution to the “Mapuche conflict” that the weichafe commit. Sabotage and arson have been normalized at this point that the police are unable to arrest a suspect for every illegal action that is carried out, not without abandoning their pretext of legality. But every time a cop or latifundista is killed, or a major infrastructural project is targeted, the Chilean state selects several influential Mapuche to take the fall.
The Chilean state highly values its veneer of legality as a tool for achieving the consent of the governed by symbolically distancing itself from the dictatorship that ended in 1990. This is a difficult task as many Chileans remain suspicious of the government and many more are armed than when the military government took over in 1973. Twice a year, Chileans mark the continuity of their suspicions and in the poblaciones they test out their weaponry, often on police. Many Chileans also sympathize with the Mapuche struggle. (An excellent documentary that explains this background is The Chicago Conspiracy).
The Chilean state faces the same limitations as any state that tries to apply criminal law as a tool to repress a popular struggle. They have to break their own laws if the tool is to have any chance of getting the job done. This would not be a problem in a more sedated democracy, but the Chilean state in particular is sensitive about the effectiveness of its democratic image.
Generally, the only way the Chilean state is able to manufacture evidence adequate for convictions that nominally follow legal rituals is through the dubious figure of the anonymous protected witness. Mapuche communities and their capacity for vengeance are strong enough that the age old tool of the snitch could only be applicable to the Mapuche conflict with heavy modifications: defendants are never allowed to know the identity of the paid informants testifying against them, therefore they can make no specific challenges to the informants’ veracity.
The Chilean state is attempting to stretch an already precarious legal foundation to bring the repression against the Mapuche into the realm of anti-terrorism. Three years ago, a disciplined hungerstrike backed by committed and expansive support defeated the government’s previous attempt to prosecute the Mapuche as terrorists. (See these articles about the 2010 hungerstrike and a statement by some of the hungerstrikers).
Now, the government is trying again…