Argentine Minister launches attack on Bristol-based indigenous rights organisation amid British funded terrorism controversy
Argentine security minister Patricia Bullrich has made serious allegations about Bristol-based voluntary organisation, Mapuche International Link, accusing them and the British Government of supporting terrorism in Patagonia’s conflict zone by supplying indigenous resistance group RAM (Mapuche Ancestral Resistance) with funding.
The explosive claim was made amidst controversy about the violent removal of indigenous populations from lucrative land in Patagonia and the suspected forced disappearance on behalf of the local police force, of young Argentine protester Santiago Maldonado.
The Mapuche community ‘Pu Lof en Resistencia’ in the county of Cushamen were protesting when Maldonado was taken by the police and then disappeared. The Mapuche demonstration was for the release from prison of their chief (lonko) Facundo Jones Huala and against the multinational Benetton, which purchased nearly a million hectares of land choosing to ignore the Mapuche families already living on it. The “Pu Lof en Resistencia” community claim that the land Benetton currently occupy has belonged to them for millennia.
Bullrich said “RAM is being financed by an English organisation. We have this completely confirmed” on MDZ, a local media outlet. She also told interviewers that the British organisation is helping RAM for philanthropy or for their ‘own interests’. These allegations have been whipping up anti-British sentiment among Argentines who still recall the Falkland Island conflict.
The organisation Bullrich was referring to is Mapuche International Link, based in Bristol, which was set up in 1996 by a group of local volunteers to raise awareness of the Mapuche people, culture and their struggle for survival in a political climate that is both hostile and violent.
The organisation is spearheaded by Reynaldo Mariqueo, a Mapuche Werken (special envoy) who arrived in the UK in 1976 as a refugee after the military coup in Chile 1973.
Mr Mariqueo who has been a delegate for UN bodies concerned with the protection of rights and culture of indigenous peoples since 1985, firmly refutes the allegations “We have not given any financial support whatsoever to any campaign groups either in the UK, Argentina or any other country. We are a totally self-funding non-profit organisation and all the work that we do is carried out by volunteers who sympathise with indigenous communities. We have also never received money from any government or any other public or private institution.”
The Mapuche are from Southern Chile and Argentina, including Patagonia and have suffered continuous violence and discrimination as environmental conflicts in the region escalate. Several community leaders in both Chile & Argentina have been imprisoned and claim to have been tortured. According to Amnesty International, the Mapuche people have been subjected to beatings with use of batons, robbery and destruction of property and the violent harassment of children. Some witnesses report officers beating and shooting men, women and children regardless of age.
On the 14th of August 2017 Mr Mariqueo contacted the Argentine Ambassador in London, Renato Carlos Sersale di Cerisano, to ask him to clarify the indirect accusations made by Minister Bullrich against Mapuche International Link, however as yet there has been no response.
“We assume that they would prefer neither to confirm nor deny the allegation as either response would cause them political embarrassment as they have no proof. We demand either a full retraction and an apology or for them to produce evidence against us.” Mr Mariqueo said.
Notes to Editors
Contact: Carole Concha Bell
Mapuche International Link:
For more on the Mapuche situation in Chile & Argentina:
Here is the original allegation by Minister Bullrich (in Spanish)
General info on Mapuche culture