Chile: in times of polarisation, the new government must guarantee respect for human rights

Press release
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Paris – Santiago – 14 December 2021. On the eve of the presidential elections to be held on 19 December in Chile, FIDH - International Federation for Human Rights, and its member organisation in Chile, the Observatorio Ciudadano, urge the future president-elect to guarantee unrestricted respect for human rights in all areas.

The presidential elections are taking place in a complex context, in which there is a growing polarisation of Chilean society on central human rights issues, such as economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, as well as the rights of indigenous peoples, migrants and sexual diversity. Furthermore, the elections are taking place at a time when a constitutional process aiming to draft a new political constitution is underway. It is important to remember that this process was the result of the social unrest that began in October 2019, in which thousands of Chileans mobilised for a fairer society. The unrest generated a cross-cutting agreement that resulted in a national plebiscite, in which 79% of the voting population approved the option to write a new Constitution through a Constitutional Convention. We appreciate the fact that this Convention, the proposed constitutional text of which will be submitted to a referendum in 2022, was democratically elected by the citizens, has gender parity, includes representatives of indigenous groups, and reflects the diversity of Chilean society.

That is why our organisations consider it vital that whoever is elected as leader of the new government commits to respecting, working alongside and supporting the constitutional process to the end of their mandate. In addition, it is essential that, in times of such a deeply polarised society, as we have experienced in the context of the social unrest and to date, in which the State has been responsible for serious human rights violations (ES), whoever assumes the presidency must guarantee compliance with the human rights obligations bestowed on the State through international human rights treaties.

This is particularly relevant in the case of Araucanía and surrounding regions, the traditional territory of the Mapuche people, where the action pursued by the State, which today includes the declaration of a state of emergency and the militarisation of the area, far from improving the already deteriorated intercultural coexistence, has intensified the confrontation and climate of violence in a dangerous way. Our organisations consider it essential that the newly elected government put an end to the strategy of militarisation of Araucanía and surrounding regions and to the criminalisation of the Mapuche people. This should be replaced with a broad call to the Mapuche people and their organisations to a process of dialogue, in accordance with the ongoing debate in the Constitutional Convention on the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples in the new fundamental charter of the country.

It is important to remember that the strategy of criminalising the Mapuche protest by the Chilean State is considered by various international bodies as a violation of the human rights contained in international treaties ratified by Chile. This is particularly true in the case of Norín Catrimán and others, which our organisations supported, in which the Inter-American Court condemned Chile for violations of due process, the principle of legality, and the principle of equality and non-discrimination.

FIDH and the Observatorio Ciudadano urge whoever is elected president in the upcoming elections, regardless of their political orientation, to give their full support to the constitutional process which is underway; to address the situation of violence and polarisation in the country, especially in the Araucanía and surrounding regions, through dialogue and democratic reforms that guarantee the human rights of the Chilean people in all areas.

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