Ralco represa

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The Ralco Dam And The Pehuenche People In Chile: Lessons From An Ethno-Environmental Conflict.

José Aylwin Institute of Indigenous Studies University of la Frontera Temuco, Chile

Acknowledgements: This paper is a part of a larger three-year research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC) and with contributions from the InternationalDevelopment Research Council of Canada.

Paper to be presented at the Conference “Towards Adaptive Conflict Resolution: Lessons From Canada and Chile”, Centre for the Study of

Global Issues, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, September 25-27, 2002. INTRODUCTION. Chile’s economy has been growing steadily during the last two decades. The fast economic growth of the country startedin the 1980s during the military dictatorship of General Pinochet (1973-1990) when market liberalisation was implemented by the so called “Chicago boys.”1 Measures adopted by the authoritarian regime’s economic team included privatisation of the productive public sector, cutting state regulatory and welfare functions and institutions, reducing public expenditures, opening the economy to externaltrade to attract foreign capital, and liberalisation of domestic prices, the financial system and the labour market. Exports based on the extraction of natural resources derived from mining, fishing and forestry boomed during this period (Altieri and Rojas, 1998). Although concern for social inequity motivated the introduction of some changes to this policy in the 1990s when a coalition ofdemocratic parties (Concertacion de Partidos por la Democracia) assumed power in 1990, the export oriented resource based economy promoted during the 1980s continued to be implemented. Moreover, political democratisation of the country enabled the Concertación governments to sign free trade agreements and strengthen economic relations with many nations. Among these agreements, those signed with Mexico andCanada, and more recently with the European Union should be mentioned.2 Chile also became a member of MERCOSUR, a free market association including Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, and joined APEC, the Asia Pacific Economic Conference. As a consequence of this economic policy, large development projects, know in Chile as mega-proyectos, have been implemented in the last decade. Investment capitalfor these projects, most of which are based upon the use and appropriation of lands, waters, forests and subsurface resources, has been provided both by national and international corporations, as well as by multilateral financial institutions. State intervention in these developments, as


Those who introduced these neo liberal policies had been trained in previous years at the Chicago Schoolof Economics. 2 A free trade agreement with the United States is currently being negotiated.


we will see in this article, has also been relevant, both as an investor and as a regulator of private investment.3 Similar to what has occurred in other parts of Latin America and throughout the world, many of these developments have been implemented on indigenous lands or on territories whichare claimed by them. Unfortunately, Indigenous rights to natural resources, which are central to their economies and cultures, were left with no protection under the law for indigenous protection enacted in 1993 as we will see later in this article. Consequently, they can be ceded by the state to non-natives who can develop them, notwithstanding their location within indigenous lands. Theprotection of the environment that these projects impact is also weak. Although environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies were introduced by legislation in 1994, these studies have not impeded the implementation of many of these projects, notwithstanding their impact on natural resources or local communities 4 (Castillo, 1999). The impact that these investments are having on Mapuche5 territory in the...
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