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Natural Resources Claims, Land Conflicts and Self-Empowerment of Indigenous Movements in the Cono Sur – The Case of the Mapuche People in Chile

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Environmental protection and the struggle over natural resources have long been of major concern for indigenous peoples all over Latin America. Notwithstanding the increasing incisiveness of international indigenous rights standards, indigenous peoples have still very limited access to natural resources, or to benefits deriving from them. Nonetheless, the recent ratification by Chile of the ILO Convention No. 169 is having a remarkable, positive impact. In 2009, the Court of Appeal of Temuco and the Supreme Court of Chile blocked a logging exploitation in indigenous territories (Machi Francisca Lincolao v. Forest Enterprise Palermo, sent. 1773-2008 dated 16 September 2009, confirmed by the Supreme Chilean Court on 30 November 2009, sent. 7287-2009) applying the ILO Convention No. 169. Other similar cases followed. These and other actions put forward by indigenous peoples’ movements in Chile, especially Mapuche, seem to be a direct consequence of an increasing awareness of indigenous peoples’ rights and the possibility to raise their voice and be heard within the civil society and at the international level. All the frustration against a legal system which is not responding to indigenous peoples’ demands is now flowing into new movements. This article, therefore, seeks to analyze the impact on indigenous peoples’ movements and the rise of new conflicts linked to the claims over natural resources and land rights in current Chile. The aim is thus to illustrate the interrelation between the Chilean inadequate legal framework, and the claims, conflicts and the self-empowerment of indigenous movements also in the Cono Sur.

Affiliations: 1: Institute for Minority Rights at the European Academy (EURAC), Bolzano/Bolzen, Italy

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