Chile: We Demand Special Indigenous Policy for COVID-19 Pandemic

FROM THE EDITORS: An impressive coalition of Mapuche, Kerwen, Aymara, Quechua, Likan Antai, Colla, and Kawesqar indigenous peoples in Chile has launched a call for the lack of specialized attention for Original Communities suffering from COVID-19, who are also leading a historic fight against extractive-development projects imposed by various governments and the militarization of their territories. Of particular concern is the new practice of extractive companies to illegally carry out “prior consultations” by video or telephone. In the communiqué that we share below, the coalition of organizations document the problem but also offer concrete proposals that respond to the intercultural health needs of indigenous peoples and make visible their struggle against social marginalization and discrimination in the Southern Cone.

We Demand Special Indigenous Policy for COVID-19 Pandemic

Allillanchu, kunamasta, kamisaraki, marri marri, sensak lickao senak pichao, Ceqek lajep

We write to you in the context of the serious pandemic that afflicts the country, to ask you for a SPECIAL POLICY FOR ORIGINAL PEOPLES THAT ARE FACING COVID.

Those of us who subscribe to this letter belong to indigenous peoples organizations located in multiple regions, from Arica to Punta Arenas. We believe that up to this moment the original peoples in general, highly vulnerable to the pandemic, have been INVISIBILIZED BY THE STATE, AND THAT INSTEAD OF PROTECTING US, THE STATE THREATENS US WITH INEXCUSABLE ACTIONS AND OMISSIONS.

We have detected and registered the following threats (by way of reference we identify the territory expressing the claim, but the realities are common to several of them):

  1. There is no statistical data on the contagion of COVID-19 and original peoples. By virtue of this, the State acts blindly on our people’s reality. [1]
  2. Absence of a special policy towards indigenous peoples in regards to COVID. The State treats us as if we are equal to the rest of the country, violating the right to “special measures” for indigenous peoples, established in ILO Convention No. 169, and in Indigenous Law itself. There is no cultural relevance in the measures applied, in violation of laws and regulations on intercultural medicine policy.
  3. A preference for dialogue with mayors and other local authorities, and not with the traditional authorities truly representative of indigenous peoples. [2]
  4. The activities of large extractive companies have not come to a halt, causing massive contagions (such as mining in Calama and Tarapacá, hydroelectric and forestry in Mapuche territory, and salmon farming in Puerto Natales, among other activities and territories), although they are not essential. [3]
  5. The presentation of  environmental assessment projects have increased, doubled, between March and May 2020, compared to the same period last year, and the resources invested in them have increased by 500%, [4] which forces us to defend our territories, distracting us from efforts to survive the pandemic.
  6. Prior consultation of indigenous people on specific business projects have continued, even offering to do them via the web, ignoring the  digital divide, remoteness, and cultural factors. [5]
  7.  Communities has been pressured to approve regulatory changes BY PHONE, such as reforming Article 85 of the Environmental Regulation (on prior consultation) and the Energy Projects Guide.
  8. Harmful or usurping proposed legislation continues to be pushed forward, such as the Heritage Law, the GMO Regulation, at a time when our people are struggling to survive, and against recommendations of Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
  9. There is no economic policy to compensate for the economic deterioration suffered by indigenous people as a result of this pandemic in rural areas. Indigenous people do not have access to state financial entities. There is talk of saving large companies and small and medium-sized urban enterprises only, but not the local and traditional indigenous economy. Compensation or development plans must be consulted and have the necessary financial resources. The particularities of extreme or border areas (Arica Parinacota – Kawesqar communities) have not been considered.
  10. The economic disadvantaged rural and urban indigenous territories are worse of from the lack of public financing for basic infrastructure (hospitals, presence of doctors, connectivity). Colchane, for example, is still waiting electric supply for the commune, promised 10 years ago, where many millions have been spent on the project alone. In Arica Parinacota, for example, it takes an hour to bring the sick to the cities in view of the remoteness of the urban centers, the Hospital of Paillaco lacks a laundry.
  11. Data on the deployment and on the indigenous people in rural areas benefiting from the delivery of food and vouchers are unknown. It has been pointed out that such support is subject to Family Programs and Ties of the Ministry of Social Development, which are programs to which the Ministry invites people to participate but are mostly unknown in the communities (Colla territory).
  12. The militarization of the territories has been used for illegal evictions and repression of the communities, as well as the shortage of basic products through border closures (Colchane). [6]
  13. Prevention measures have served to discourage traditional activities of indigenous peoples, such as hunting, fishing, grazing animals, agriculture, and the sale of traditional products (Kawesqar territory and Alto Bio Bio, among others).
  14. The State has neither promoted nor addressed the use of indigenous medicine, nor the knowledge of our ancestral authorities to combat the Coronavirus.
  15. There are no special health residences for native peoples, and as result, faced with cultural discrimination and mistreatment, indigenous elders do not report their disease (Colchane, etc.).
  16. The communities have not receeived support when making the autonomous decision to close towns, communities or territories, and they have been repressed with a strong police presence when extractive megaprojects are present [7].
  17. We are assimilated with measures that do not adjust to the reality of the territories, instilling fear, and thereby weakening the population through intimidation and fear.

Proposals

It is for this reason that we request the State to implement, through all possible channels, the following measures, within the framework of a SPECIAL POLICY FOR ORIGINAL PEOPLES AGAINST COVID:

  1. Create, with the consensus and participation of the indigenous ancestral authorities of the territories, special protocols of health care for indigenous people in the context of the pandemic by COVID-19, which includes indigenous medicine, indigenous knowledge, and the action and collaboration of indigenous authorities in measures to prevent and combat the pandemic.
  2. Modify the protocol of funerals and the management of corpses, to make it compatible and protect the right to “buen morir” [dignified death] of native peoples, according to indigenous traditions and customs, including funeral ceremonies.
  3. Provide sufficient doctors and infrastructure to distant territories. In the future, hand over the health administration, with state financing, to the traditional authorities of the indigenous territories, as recommended by the ILO Convention 169 (Article 25).
  4. Make visible the contagions of native peoples statistically, disaggregating data by town, territory, deceased, urban, rural, etc.
  5. Respect the measures of confinement, isolation, and closure of towns or territories to stop infections.
  6. Endorse and support, even logistically, the agreements between traditional authorities, communities, or between the rural and urban indigenous population, regarding the distribution of food and supplies, the right to access the territories, irrigation and care of animals and crops, etc.
  7. Create, with the collaboration of the indigenous territorial authorities, pertinent health residences for native peoples, and a policy of accompaniment and assistance for the elderly by indigenous and native people from their territory.
  8. Bring to a halt environmental, regulatory, and draft consultations on indigenous people during the pandemic, much less attempt to do them online or by phone, which is openly illegal.
  9. Demilitarize indigenous territories, so that the fight against the pandemic does not mean repressing the indigenous peoples without justification.
  10. Avoid measures against the pandemic that could collapse, disincentivize, or place obstacles on the traditional activities of native peoples, such as hunting, fishing, aquaculture, livestock, etc., in suppor of local food sovereignty.
  11. Implement special economic measures to finance indigenous development plans of each territory, for the rescue of local, rural, or urban economies. Traditional indigenous activities should be privileged, in dialogue with the ancestral authorities and their own organizations. Deliveries of urgent aid in food and supplies must be coordinated with traditional authorities or subsidized organizations where they are established.
  12. Access the demands of Mapuche political prisoners, and attend to the rights of the indigenous prison population in general, who suffer the risks of the pandemic in conditions of particular vulnerability.

To design and apply these measures, we ask for dialogue to be established between indigenous representatives of each territory and organization and the national government, to analyze, make transparent and take the necessary measures to confront CODIV-19 in rural and urban communities in the Native populace.

We will be waiting expenctantly the response to this letter since it is the responsibility of the State as a whole to take rapid and urgent measures to save the life and ensure the survival of indigenous peoples.

Thanking you for your attention, we said goodbye waiting for a prompt response.

  1. Verónica Henríquez Antimanqui, Mapuche, President of the Futa Trawun Association, Paillaco. ASODEPLU, Original Assembly for Decolonization and Plurinationality.
  2. Haydee Águila, Kawésqar, President of the Indigenous Community At Ap, Punta Arenas. ASODEPLU, Original Assembly for Decolonization and Plurinationality.
  3. Esteban Araya Toroco, Likan Antai, President Indigenous Association of Irrigators and Farmers Lay Lay, Calama. ASODEPLU, Original Assembly for Decolonization and Plurinationality.
  4. Ariel León Bacián, Aymara-Quechua. Iquique, Metropolitan Region.ASODEPLU, Original Assembly for Decolonization and Plurinationality.
  5. Denis Quichel Antillanca, Mapuche, President of the Association Newentwaiñ, Concepción, ASODEPLU, Original Assembly for Decolonization and Plurinationality.
  6. Ercilia Araya Altamirano, Colla. President of the Colla de Pai Ote Indigenous Community. Copiapo. ASODEPLU, Original Assembly for Decolonization and Plurinationality.
  7. Nancy Piñones Ormazábal, President of the Aymara Elba Sanjinés Huara Community. Metropolitan Region.
  8. María Navarro, member of the Kawesqar Seno Obstrucción Community, Puerto Natales.
  9. Yaneth Challapa, Aymara, inhabitant of the Colchane Commune, Cariquima.
  10. Carmen Paine, Werken of the Butalelbun Indigenous Association, Alto Bio Bio.
  11. Wilfredo Bacián, President of the Quechua Community of Quipisca, Tarapacá.
  12. Ruth Godoy, President of the Quechua Community of Macaya, Tarapacá.
  13. Rosa Ovando, member of the Kawesqar Canoeists Australes Community. Magallanes region.
  14. Richard Fernadez Chavez, Aymara Coordinator of defense of Natural resources, Arica Parinacota.
  15. Leticia Caro Kogler, President of the Kawesqar Community Nomadic Groups of the Sea, Punta Arenas.
  16. Haylen Chang Cutipa, member of the town of Belén, Quechua, Arica Parinacota.
Footnotes

[1] Ensure the availability of disaggregated data on indigenous peoples, in particular on infection rates, mortality, economic impact, the burden of care, and incidence of violence, including gender-based violence. Considerations Indigenous peoples and pandemic COVID, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations: https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/covid-19.html

[2] Include representatives, leaders, and traditional authorities of indigenous peoples in the emergency and health response entities of their communities, supervising the responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Likewise, Indigenous peoples must be included in  both the responses to the pandemic and its repercussions. UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

[3]  57. Refrain from promoting legislative initiatives and/or advances in the implementation of productive and/or extractive projects in the territories of indigenous peoples during the duration of the pandemic, due to the impossibility of carrying out free and informed prior consultation processes (due to the WHO recommendation to adopt social distancing measures) provided in ILO Convention 169 and other relevant international and national instruments on the matter.  http://www.oas.org/es/cidh/decisiones/pdf/Resolucion-1-20-es.pdf

[4]  http://olca.cl/articulo/nota.php?id=107987

[5] 57. Refrain from promoting legislative initiatives and/or advances in the implementation of productive and/or extractive projects in the territories of indigenous peoples during the duration of the pandemic, due to the impossibility of carrying out free and informed prior consultation processes (due to the WHO recommendation to adopt social distancing measures) provided in ILO Convention 169 and other relevant international and national instruments on the matter. http://www.oas.org/es/cidh/decisiones/pdf/Resolucion-1-20-es.pdf

[6] Considerations of Indigenous peoples and pandemic COVID, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations: “Establish effective cooperation with neighboring States where indigenous peoples live on the borders, ensuring that all agents exercise good practices in close cooperation with affected indigenous peoples.”  https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/wp-content/uploads/sites/19/2020/04/COVID_IP_considerations_Spanish.pdf

[7] Adhere to and support indigenous peoples who have imposed enclosures or limitations to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus in their communities. Considerations Indigenous peoples and pandemic COVID, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations.

Source: Originally posted on ASODEPLU social media, translated into English by Awasqa

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