In brief

Chile reserves 17 seats for indigenous peoples in Constitutional Convention

Some in Mapuche movement welcome move, others speak up against lack of consultation

Author: Senado de Chile
The Chilean Parliament has agreed to reserve 17 seats for the country’s ten indigenous peoples in the 155-seat Convention that is set to draft Chile’s new Constitution from 2021. The decision has sparked divided opinions among the largest indigenous movement in the South American country, the Mapuche.

Of the 17 seats, seven will reserved for the Mapuche themselves, two for the Aymara and one for each of the Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Quechua, Atacameño, Diaguita, Colla, Kawéskar, Yaghan, and Chango peoples.

According to the 2017 census, 12% of the Chilean population is indigenous. Among them, 80% are Mapuche.

A reserved seat for Chileans of African descent has nevertheless been rejected. The left supported the measure, but conservative parties have blocked it.

The Convention election will take place on 11 April 2021. To be eligible to vote for the election of those 17 seats, a citizen will need to be registered in a special indigenous register, or else receive a special permit.

The news have been greeted with mixed reactions by Mapuche organisations.

Identidad Territorial Lafkenche has called the decision “a milestone” that should be “celebrated”, although it also admits that it is not what the indigenous organisations wanted, as dozens of native groups had demanded at least 24 seats for their peoples.

The Wallampuwen political party, which advocated the approval of reserved seats, has welcomed the decision.

The Consejo de Todas las Tierras has said the whole process lacked “legitimacy” because it has not been decided with the participation of the indigenous peoples, thus preventing them from exercising their “sovereignty.” The group has also claimed that previous experiences of reserving seats in other countries have failed, since the model has not given real autonomy to indigenous peoples.

The Coordinadora Arauco Malleco (CAM) has denounced that the process will not guarantee “a structural transformation that will solve the underlying problems and colonial violence” to which the Mapuche “are forced upon.” According to the CAM, autonomy will only be achieved “through territorial struggle,” not “begging for power quotas from anyone.”