By Javier Martin
Santiago, May 15 (EFE).- The recognition of indigenous people in Chile’s new constitution is not enough of a landmark, and the charter must include real collective rights on cultural issues and recovery and management of territories, Alihuan Antileo, the only indigenous representative elected for the new Constitutional Council, told EFE on Monday.
In an exclusive interview, the Mapuche attorney emphasized that he will keep fighting to ensure that indigenous peoples “have political participation in those areas where public policies that directly affect us are decided, such as the national budget.”
“Later, we will make the corresponding assessment about what was and was not achieved, and based on that we will collectively establish our position,” he said.
“To say no to all our demands can have the effect, in the plebiscite in December if there are no enshrined rights for indigenous peoples, that they will call for people to vote to reject (the constitutional draft),” he warned.
With no seats reserved for indigenous peoples among the 50 constituencies, unlike for the last constitutional convention, and needing to exceed 190,000 votes to be elected, few people predicted that this time there would be any representatives of indigenous peoples on the Constitutional Council.
“There’s a trend toward greater political and electoral participation on the part of the indigenous peoples over the past 10 years and that trend is moderate but sustained … The indigenous movement wants to continue to have decisionmaking power,” he added.
Other collectives “acquired rights decades ago for different reasons, but we indigenous peoples have been in the same position for 150, 200 years. We have nothing, we’ve never been mentioned in any constitution, that’s the difference. It’s better to have a little bit than nothing. That’s how we’re handling the campaign,” he said.
“We’re not going to have the 45 or 50 articles that were proposed in the first (convention), but we can have five or six, and that’s going to mean a lot of dialogue,” Antileo said before admitting that the indigenous peoples are aware that with the rejection (of their initial demands) they lost an historic opportunity.
Despite the fact that its ultraright majority results in a Constitutional Council that’s less forthcoming, right from the start, regarding indigenous aspirations, Antileo said he believes that dialogue and future political calculations, along with already agreed-upon principles, offer indigenous peoples many chances for success.
One of these is a greater presence on the congressional budget committee “where we have two lawmakers among 155. Of course, at the time of discussing a budget increase, for example, in the area of healthcare or indigenous culture, no, we’ve got practically no influence on anything,” he said.
“What are we asking for? Seats reserved (for us) there as well. There are more conservative sectors who are working against that. But others that could study it,” granting between three and 17 seats if they calculate representation based on the indigenous percentage of Chile’s population, which stands at 13 percent, he said.
“The number is an issue that can be discussed in the Constitution, just as on the regional level … and the municipal level. And also the issue of land registry and restitution. It’s also an historical Mapuche demand that we’re going to bring up and on which we think we can also reach some degree of consensus” within the Constitutional Council, he said.
Where the indigenous peoples are not going to get involved, however, is on issues that caused controversy during the earlier constitutional process such as plurinationality – “which has already been resolved on its basic principles” – and indigenous justice, and the focus will be kept on issues “where there’s some possibility of making progress … according to the new correlation of forces within this Constitutional Council,” he emphasized.
“Clearly, it’s not as favorable a scenario as during the first one … (but) I have the impression that during the development of debate within the Constitutional Council positions are going to become more flexible, there’s going to be moderation on certain things.”
“Why? Because the indigenous issue is one that has to be dealt with using a vision of the state. If someone wants to govern this country, he has to have a general vision,” he said.
As per this argument, Antileo expressed the opinion that “Today, the main political problem the state has is the indigenous issue, the Mapuche issue. … You have to give ground to those with quite rigid positions, which have generally been further removed from our demands. But I think that sanity and political maturity will prevail,” he said.
“And here something similar can also happen with these organizations in their areas of influence. They may say no, but their base may say yes, they want an institutional, democratic and peaceful solution to this conflict that has dragged on for decades,” Antileo said.
So, it’s something that we think should be dealt with, because it’s a way to achieve peace, but a peace with dignity and respect,” he said.