On 30 April 2020 I received a message from Red de Acción por los Derechos Ambientales RADA‘s Alejandra Parra that people were evicted from the Mapuche land re-occupation in Liempi Colipi near Curacautin, Chile. The re-occupation started in early November of 2019. Later that month, Alejandra, Anne Petermann and myself from Global Justice Ecology Project, and Biofuelwatch‘s Gary Hughes went to Liempi Colipi. We were traveling as a documentary team in Chile covering the peoples’ uprising.
When I heard that people had been evicted from this community, it struck home. The people in the community had been so generous with us. They made fry bread, and allowed us to take photos and video of one of their ceremonies–a rare privelege. They showed us around the beautiful land they live in, surrounded by volcanoes, and the next day we joined them on the blockade on US Thanksgiving Day.
That morning, 28 November, the Mapuche communities of Liempi Colipi defended their land occupation when Carabineros de Chile (national police) fired rubber coated metal pellets, injuring several people at the blockade. We shot a one minute video of a Mapuche who came back to the re-occupation the same day as he was shot. You can watch it here: “Thanksgiving Day” Mapuche Indigenous Land Occupation, Chile.
The following feature uses photography and video from the two days we were in the community, and includes an interview with Roberto Cheuquepan, the “Werken” (spokesperson) of the Liempi Colipi community on the recent eviction there along with news from Chile’s INTERFERENCIA.
Carabineros Special Forces move in to Liempi Colipi
– by Orin Langelle, Startegic Communications Director, Global Justice Ecology Project
in a statement sent to us, Werken Roberto Cheuquepan said, “Yesterday [29 April 2020] we, the Liempi Colipi community, were evicted by Carabineros (national police) Special Forces of the municipality of Pailahueque, following an eviction order on behalf of Ms. María Luisa Lyon, current “legal” landowner of the Fundo Santa Filomena that the community is in the process of regaining.”
The current tenant, José Miguel Chaín, has a lease contract for the Fundo and was implicated in the eviction.
The Werken continued, “Yesterday, when we arrived at the place of the eviction, where a family from Punto Fijo also lives, in a building used in the past by the caretakers of the Fundo, a Special Forces unit was evicting that family.” He added, “In the context of this pandemic that is affecting the whole world, we did not wish to confront the special forces, as that would mean exposing elder people and those with chronic health issues in our now already reduced Community. So there were no clashes or injuries.”
There is “a growing repression toward communities,” said the Werken. “This eviction continues as the Lyon family wants to destroy the houses that currently stand in the Fundo, but demolition could not be done yesterday as the special forces had to retreat and the heavy machinery could not enter the Fundo. But the community is currently threatened with the destruction of the house in which one of our families now lives.”
When asked what could be done in the U.S. regarding the current situation in Mapuche territory, Werken Cheuquepan said, “the most important thing now is to disseminate what is happening in the Mapuche communities in the context of this pandemic, in which the Chilean State is spending money and resources, sending Special Forces and exposing our communities to disease, without knowing if such forces have undergone any medical tests. It would be very important that what is happening in Chile, particularly in the La Araucanía region, where Mapuche communities, more than ever, are struggling to recover their lands and their Mapuche way of life, and to do so we also need to start recovering our territory, the lands that have been usurped by the landowning oligarchy, by colonists, by forestry corporations.”
From the site of Chile’s INTERFERENCIA regarding Mary Luisa Lyon’s riches in the forestry sector:
Maria Luisa Lyon has a pine plantation on the farm, shares in CMPC and is married to Manuel Montt Balmaceda, a descendant of the emblematic Montt family, founding rector and member of the Superior Board of Directors of the Fundación Universidad Diego Portales. The marriage has five daughters and eleven grandchildren.
Lyon is listed as a shareholder with less than 1% of the ownership of Empresas CMPC SA This is equivalent to 85 million dollars, since FORBES magazine (Global 2000) in its 2019 publication, reported that the market value of the company corresponds to $ 8.5 billion.
According to a BBC World article, these plantations are fast growing, just like eucalyptus, and although they pose a threat to native species, they exist for an economic reason…satisfying demand for products derived from forests, such as wood and cellulose, although they cause dryness in the soil and groundwater layers.
INTERFERENCIA reported that members of the Mapuche community witnessed a conversation between the Lonko (community leader) of Liempi Colipi, Juan Huenuhueque, and the owner of the estate Maria Luisa Lyon. The Lonko asked Lyon not to send in the Carabineros Special Forces into Mapuche territory anymore.
INTERFERENCIA said that according to witnesses Lyon replied that the Mapuche of Liempi Colipi have “a hatred against working people” and that she considers “what they have done to be evil”. In addition, according to these witnesses, Lyon told the community leader that “we are in a world of civilized people,” and that they must stop doing “wild” things. And Lyon said they would be forgiven…”if they know how to use computers– to update and be people.”
Special thanks to Alejandra Parra, Joám Evans Pim, Anne Petermann, Gary Hughes and Cassandra for their assistance in this post.
Please see the four minute video: Mapuche People Speak Out About Their Occupation of Ancestral Territories in Chile
a video made for participants at COP 25 – UN Convention on Climate Change Conference in Madrid, Spain VIDEO: STATEMENT TO COP25 FROM MAPUCHE & OTHERS IN CHILE – NO MARKET-BASED “SOLUTIONS”