Free Francisca Linconao: Resistimos! (part 1 of 2)

by Levy Abad

Seemingly, small events such as a forum of a hundred people may be perceived insignificant by the eye of the unconscientisized. However, to anybody who understands the process of building a movement, it is a small step—yes—but one that can lead to a big change.

A month ago, I have no knowledge whatsoever about Francisca Linconao until Pablo Herrera and Simon Baer invited me to a meeting to discuss about indigenous struggles here in Canada and around the world. Then did we talk about Francisca Linconao.

From the meeting, I learned that Linconao is an indigenous spiritual leader from the Mapuche tribe, the largest indigenous group in Chile. She was imprisoned for resisting “Neoliberalism’s encroachment on ancestral lands through the construction of dams, highways,” mining, and other buildings associated with the so-called technological advancement. If a national symbol like Linconao could be jailed for standing up for her tribe, then what more about the fate of ordinary grassroot activists who tirelessly organize in the locality and whom corporate media usually ignore? Researching on YouTube, I found a lot of branding, surveillance, and imprisonment that the state security forces did against Mapuche Indigenous activists. According to the article of Luis Campos Munoz, “There are now over 100 Mapuche political prisoners in Chilean jails, many of whom are members of the Arauco-Coordinator (CAM), a Mapuche organization made up of 160 indigenous communities.” All these remind me of similar struggles of the Lumads of Southern Philippines in resisting global mining corporations.

My curiosity about Linconao helped me understand that “the Mapuche have been credited as being the only Native American to have successfully resisted the conquest of the Spanish Empire, due in part to their guerilla-like military strategy, high adaptability, and largely decentralized political system. The Arauco War between the Spanish colonial forces and the Mapuche began in1550, almost a decade after the arrival of the Spaniards in 1841; and according to contemporary historians, it lasted for more than a century, transitioning to a more subtle and intermittent conflict, which lasted up until 1883” (Tobias Sean Fontecilla).

Any rudimentary understanding of Capitalism teaches that “it must expand or die.” From the book that Henry Heller lent to me, The Blood of Extraction: Canadian Imperialism in Latin America by Todd Gordon and Jeffrey R. Webber, I was shocked to learn about the policies that guide the government in its approach to Latin America, in particular to Chile. The book reminded me of the outcome of nationalist, progressive or, worse, socialist government that tried to chart an independent course of development during the time of the CIA-backed coup d’état against the socialist Salvador Allende, for instance. In the Philippines, Gina Lopez, the only progressive Environment Secretary whom President Rodrigo Duterte has ever appointed, was rejected by the comprador-dominated Commission of Appointments of Congress for her firm stand to protect the environment in areas where most of the indigenous communities are concentrated. A former general replaced her.

In the 1970s, neo-liberalism became a popular concept. For a time, many of its supporters referred to it as globalization in the Philippines, which actually means, liberalization of policies or dismantling of protective measures. When activists led by movements adhering to socialist ideology resist in a comprehensive way, the fangs of monopoly capital counter by eliminating the activists or prophets of the people, branding them as enemies of the state. After USA’s 9/11, no matter how legitimate the issues were, the blanket terrorist tag became a trend. However, in Chile, this reactionary measure happened earlier with “the counter terrorist act formulated in 1984 under the Pinochet military dictatorship, in order to more efficiently control and repress the opposition.”

In 2001, the Counter-Terrorist Act was subjected to reform in order to accommodate the “Mapuche problem” (Chile’s biased Counter-Terrorist Laws by Tobias Sean Fontecilla). This act is the reactionary basis of Linconao’s case, in which she was branded as engaging in terrorist activities. What happened to the so-called restoration of democracy in Chile? Hence, in the face of the comprehensive attacks on people’s rights, the communities must go on organizing consciousness-raising events as a form of resistance and not slumber. No matter how small the effort, the struggle must go on…
(to be concluded in the next issue)

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