COP 25 Climate Summit Opens With Controversy
Above photo: Mapuche men block entrance to Liempi Colipi, a Mapuche community occupying 1500 ha of ancestral lands begun two weeks ago. They were attacked by the police twice, with some members injured and others hospitalized. Photo: Orin Langelle/GJEP
As UN Climate COP launches in Madrid Activists in Chile Demand Rejection of Neoliberal Model and Removal of Chile from COP Presidency
Chilean President Sebastian Piñera Abandons Plans to Travel to Madrid for COP25 Due to Threat of Detention for Human Rights Abuses
Santiago, Chile–While the annual UN Climate Summit (COP25) commences in Madrid, protesters across Chile, the country in which the COP was originally planned, are demanding that Chile be stripped of the Presidency of COP 25 due to the human rights abuses happening in Chile. At the same time, Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón has threatened to have Chile’s President Piñera detained if he attempts to enter the country.
Protesters are rising up against Chile’s neoliberal model, imposed under the Pinochet dictatorship. More than two dozen people have been killed in the protests and hundreds have lost eyes as Carabineros de Chile (national police) intentionally shoot metal-filled rubber bullets shotgun-style at people’s heads.
Chilean and Indigenous Mapuche protesters explain that they are not seeking simple reforms. “We are not marching for social reforms,” said Mapuche elder Ana Llao, “we are marching for a total change of the system!”
Mapuches point out that political repression has been going on against them for decades, and escalated under the Pinochet regime, when vast expanses of their territory were stolen and turned into industrial monocultures of non-native pine and eucalyptus for pulp and paper companies.
Mapuche communities have long resisted this land theft, with Mapuches being attacked, murdered or jailed as recently as 2018. In November 2018, an unarmed Camilo Catrillanca was shot in the back of the head and killed by Carabineros. In April 2018, Mapuche Lonko (leader) Alberto Curamil was arrested on trumped up charges after years of fighting deforestation and successfully stopping two hydro-electric dams. In 2019 he was awarded the coveted Goldman Environmental Prize. As the COP begins, Lonko Curamil’s trial continues in Temuco, Chile.
“There is a political problem of permanent violence executed by the state regarding Mapuche people here in Wallmapu. The Chilean state has repressed, shot people in the back, and imprisoned them permanently. We live under a model of dispossession and exploitation–of misery–that has not only attacked Mapuche people but all Chileans,” said Rodrigo Román, attorney for Lonko Curamil.
With the momentum of the national uprising, two weeks ago, two Mapuche communities near Curacautin, Liempi Colipi and Quilape Lopez began an occupation of 1500 hectares of ancestral lands. They have been attacked by the police twice, with some members injured and others hospitalized. Referring to a series of hydroelectric projects planned for rivers throughout Mapuche territory, including the sacred Rio Cautin, Juan Ramón said, “Chile has now moved on from stealing our land to stealing our water.”
Alejandra Parra of Environmental Rights Action Network (RADA) points out, “Chile provides a warning to the world. Our environment and people are already being devastated by these neoliberal ‘climate solutions’ being lifted up by the Chilean Presidency at COP25. From hydroelectricity that steals our rivers, to electric cars, solar panels and industrial wind farms that ravage our mountains and deserts for lithium and copper, to the expansion of tree plantations onto Indigenous lands for the ‘bioeconomy’–Chile shows why ‘climate action’ cannot be motivated by profits.”
The neoliberal model has long been a feature of the climate COPs in the form of REDD, carbon offsets and other carbon market schemes, but this year under Chile’s leadership, it is rising to new prominence in the form of “Natural Climate Solutions.” These so-called solutions have been condemned as the commodification of the Earth for the purpose of creating vast quantities of carbon and biodiversity offsets designed to enable climate-destroying business as usual under the pretense of climate action.