The Mapuche’s Cross-border Struggle for Freedom and Autonomy from Argentina and Chile

The Mapuche’s Cross-border Struggle for Freedom and Autonomy from Argentina and Chile

     by and  / Intercontinental Cry

Ever since the incursion of rampant neoliberalism in Chile and Argentina in the 1970s and 1980s, the Mapuche territory or Wallmapu, located south of the Bio Bio River, has been subjected to immeasurable domination and constant exploitation at the hands of a diverse range of foreign and national economic interests. Megaprojects like hydroelectric dams, mining operations, oil extraction and forestry plantations embody some of the main threats to Mapuche self-determination and autonomy.

In Chile, thanks to the enactment of Law 701 in 1974, three forestry giants stand at the forefront of the exploitation of Mapuche territory Forestal Bosques Arauco, CMPC and Forestal Mininco. Overall, pine and eucalyptus plantations in Chile today amount to more than 2.8 million hectares. For their part, the forefathers of today’s latifundistas were European-born families, who were invited to settle in Mapuche territory during Pinochet’s dictatorship.

Underpinning the vast array of threats in Wallmapu there sits a  broader historical, socio-politico and economic reality that was recently defined by historians Fernando Pairican and Rolando Alvarez-Vallejo as the “New Arauco War”.

On the frontlines of this war, the Chilean State works vigorously to criminalize, demoralize, incarcerate and discredit Mapuche leaders using any manner or method at their convenience.

A prime and recent example of this harsh campaign can be found in the arbitrary detention of Mapuche Peñis, Ernesto Lincoyam Llaitul Pezoa and Ismael Queipul Martínez, by Chilean security forces last May, in Los Angeles (Bio Bio Region).

Peñi Llaitul was arrested due to the alleged illegal possession of firearms — although no concrete evidence for this accusation has since then been provided by Chile’s equivalent to the FBI, the Investigations Police of Chile (PDI). His arbitrary detention can be best explained as part of the regular series of intelligence operations against the Mapuche — constant monitoring and surveillance of Mapuche autonomist communities by undercover police, paramilitaries and co-opted local members has indeed become an entrenched strategy of the Chilean corporate state.

Most importantly, the violent arrest of Llaitul and Queipul came at a crucial juncture in Chilean-Mapuche politics. In the leading up to the first ever Mesa de Diálogo, a top-down embraced initiative to reconcile Mapuche and non-Mapuche interests in the region, the Arauco Malleco Coordinating Committee (CAM for its Spanish acronym)  publicly announced its refusal to participate. The announcement sparked anger and frustration among the politically liberal associations and NGOs that sought a peace process. The rationale behind CAM’s decision was that the Mesa de Dialogo was largely devoid of political power  since it was pushed by local and national actors which had themselves a vexed interest in the negotiations, such as conservative intellectuals, university chancellors, forestry and mining labor union leaders, among others. Unsurprisingly,  the corporate giants absented themselves from the table. In this sense, the Mesa de Dialogo was an attempt to paradoxically reconcile Mapuche and non-Mapuche interests by leaving capital untouched.

Ernesto Llaitul was arrested on preventive detention in 2016. Photo by Periódico Azkintuwe.

Mapuche activist Ernesto Llaitul was arrested by Chilean police on weapons charges in 2016. Photo by Periódico Azkintuwe.

This refusal to partake in the Mesa de Dialogo and any other similar de-politicized, de-economized processes came along with the release of a first of its kind mainstream special television report on CAM and its clandestine strategy of liberation. This report showed for the first time to the average Chilean citizen an unapologetic CAM, which openly defended violence (arson and other attacks against capital) as the sole means of emancipation–leaving the variegated cells of CAM  exposed to a wave of brutal quelling, which included arbitrary arrests, violent raids to communities and the expulsion of Mapuche from recovered lands. It was precisely in this critical environment where Llaitul and Queipul were arrested.

For his part, Ernesto Llaitul has been a long-time active member of CAM. His father, Weychafe Héctor Llaitul has been at the forefront of Mapuche resistance since the late 1990s. Therefore, his arrest comes as no surprise to the Mapuche communities of Arauco-Malleco.  He is another  de facto political prisoner jailed in Wallmapu. In the midst of his imprisonment, Ernesto Llaitul proclaimed “neither imprisonment nor bullets will halt our struggle”.

On Wednesday 21 of September, the Los Angeles tribunal ruled Ernesto Llaitul’s detention arbitrary and illegal. Preventive detention was revoked and he has since been granted partial parole. The tribunal states that insufficient evidence was provided by the prosecutors to proof Llaitul and Queipul’s illegal possession of weapons. This development, however, should not be construed as the triumph of justice in the highly-corrupted Chilean bureaucratic-legal system. On the contrary, it sheds light on the variegated and complex techniques of oppression and surveillance used by the Chilean state. It is through arbitrary arrests, like this one, that the Chilean state exudes the extent of its power. It is through granting parole that it aims to wash off international condemnation of its judicial processes. The release of Llaitul can only be seen as a statist tool to “pacify” and co-opt CAM.

A similar narrative of criminalization can found in nearby Argentina.

Most recently, on August 30 2016  a large contingent of police and military personnel took to the streets of city of Esquel in Patagonia, Argentina where Mapuche leaders and social movement gathered outside the courthouse to support Lonko (traditional leader) Facundo Huala Jones.

Credit: Red de Apoyo Comunidades en Conflicto MAP

Mapuche activists outside protested outside a courthouse on August 30 2016 in the city of Esquel in Patagonia, Argentina to support Facundo Huala Jones. Photo by Red de Apoyo Comunidades en Conflicto MAP

In preventative detention since May 27, 2016, Huala was accused of usurping land belonging to the multi-national Benetton in Chubut, Argentina and also faced extradition to Chile where he is wanted on counts of arson and possession of illegal weapons in a case dating back to 2013 in Pisue Pisue, Rio Bueno.

Huala Jones had no doubts about his situation: “I am a political prisoner, persecuted by the Government of two countries – Argentina and Chile,” he said. “This is political persecution that goes beyond this judicial process.’

This could not have been clearer when the Judge Martin Zacchino refused a request from Huala’s defence lawyer to allow him to go under house arrest on health grounds: “You incite people to fight, that verges on crime. 30 more days in prison,” he said.

The case of Peñis, Huala Jones and Llaitul both need to be contextualized within the broader warfare campaign targeting Mapuche leaders —from Machis (spiritual healers) to Werkens (messengers) and Weychafes (warriors) — all of them, struggling for the inherent right to autonomy of the Mapuche nation.

Unlike many other indigenous nations in South America, the Mapuche nation continued to be autonomous fiercely and successfully resisting any incursions on their territory up until the late nineteenth century. It wasn’t until the foundation of the colonial nations of Argentina and Chile, that the Wallmapu was divided in two and differing forms of oppression ensued.

In Chile, the Mapuche nation was forcibly annexed in the aftermath of the violent and brutal Operation “Pacificación de la Araucania”.

In Argentina, a campaign of genocide called the ‘’Conquest of the Desert’’ rampaged from 1778-1885, killing and enslaving the Mapuche, funded partly by the British who supplied Remington Rifles in return for 1 million hectares of land. Up until the mid 1920s, money was awarded to anyone who presented the ear of a slain Mapuche — a process which enabled many European settlers buy up land.

Despite this, the Mapuche never lost their vision of an autonomous Wallmapu and have maintained their historic fierce resistance to the colonial states.  Today, the Arauco Malleco Coordinating Committee and the emerging Movimiento Autónomo del Puelmapu (MAP) in Argentina are arguably the most important indigenous autonomist organization in the whole of Latin America engaging in a project not only for the recovery of scattered Mapuche lands but actively seeking to liberate the Mapuche nation from the grip of statist colonial power and its corporate allies.

The heavy police presence on the streets of Esquel during the trial of Facundo Huala. Photo by Red de Apoyo Comunidades en Conflicto MAP

The heavy police presence on the streets of Esquel during the trial of Facundo Huala. Photo by Red de Apoyo Comunidades en Conflicto MAP.

“We have a legitimate right to rise up and rebel in the face of tyrannical regimes, created through processes of military occupation by the Chilean and Argentinean government from the mid-1800s onwards which created poverty, violence, racism, denial of basic human rights and a policy of genocide which exists even today,” says Huala, “And even more so when there is no serious attempt at dialogue.  The response to our political proposals is always the same: prison and bullets.”

The imprisonment of Mapuche leaders raises serious concerns of due process in a country which has long been regarded as the epitome of Latin America’s liberal democracy.

Take, for instance, the highly controversial imprisonment of Machi Francisca Linconao and Machi Celestino Cordova, who were charged with terrorism due to their supposed involvement in the arson attacks against the estate of the Luchsinger family in 2013. Their trial was marred with inconsistencies, lack of transparency and heavily relied on protected “faceless” witnesses, all of this validated and substantiated by Chile’s 1984 Anti-Terror Law—a  controversial piece of legislation that dates back to Pinochet’s time. While the original law was first and foremost directed at targeting and quelling the more “direct” actions of leftist urban guerrillas in the 1980s , the amendments to this law passed by the Chilean Congress after the restoration of democracy post-1990s aimed to legalize the systematic surveillance of Mapuche communities, the militarization of Wallmapu and the inclusion of arson attacks as a terrorist act.

In Argentina the process of judicial harassment of Mapuche leaders has been less extreme than in neighboring Chile. One reason given by the MAP is the history of extreme violence against the Mapuche: “ Here we have dead bodies, not prisoners, ” they say.

And this violence could clearly be seen during the arrest of Huala Jones on 27 May 2016 in a police raid in Cushaman, a community which is in the process of land recuperation from the multi-national Benetton. 120 heavily armed police used bullets, tear gas and destroyed the homes of a group of 20 people living on 500 hectares of recovered land.  Six others were arrested but subsequently released, with the existing extradition request from Chile used to justify preventive detention for Huala.

The request dates back to 2013 when Haula had been visiting Machi Millaray Huichalaf  — an emblematic figure in the struggle against a hydroelectric dam on the Pilmaiken River — when her house was raided by police and she was arrested along with Facundo and four other colleagues all accused of involvement in an arson case on the agricultural estate Pisue Pisue. During a year long process of judicial persecution involving preventative detention, home arrest while the Chilean Government sought ways to apply the  anti-terrorist law to this case, Huala managed to escape back into Argentina. While the intellectual authors of the arson were never found, Machi Millaray was sentenced to two months in prison, the other four were absolved and Huala was declared a fugitive of justice.

As aforementioned, Ernesto Llaitul’s father, Weychafe Hector Llaitul, has been a central actor in the Mapuche resistance movement since the late 1990s. Therefore, he has been subjected to the same controversial legislation and undue process. Weychafe Llaitul, current leader and spokesperson of CAM, was charged for the attacks against prosecutor Mario Elgueta back in 2008.

While Weychafe Llaitul is now on parole, his struggle for the revindication of Mapuche territory and the liberation of the Mapuche Nation  continues unscathed. Intimidation, infiltration and violent attacks by corporate-funded paramilitaries — such as the Comando Hernán Trizano — continues, limiting the processes of territorial recuperation set into motion by CAM.

Llaitul’s imprisonment then evinces the perpetuation of arbitrary and undemocratic Chilean legal processes that continue to criminalize Mapuche mobilization and persecute prominent Mapuche leaders and activists.

A surprise move unsettles the status quo on the other side of the colonial border. On August 31, 2016,  Argentinean authorities chose not to grant Chile its extradition request of Huala. The testimony of one of the witnesses brought forward by the prosecution was called into question after he claimed that he had been forced to sign a statement of accusation against Huala.

The revelation was key in the Judge’s final decision that was met with an explosion of excitement and the Mapuche battle cry Mariciweu!

“Historically, the Government has always ruled against Indigenous people,” said Qom leader Felix Diaz who attended the trial. “Today a precedent has been set which gives us hope of a new future for Indigenous people.”

For now, Huala while will enjoy time with his family and loved ones and the struggle will continue: “In prison or out, I will always fight.  When things are wrong we have to change them. When you see oppression and do nothing to change the situation, then you become complicit with the oppressor.”

Ernesto Llaitul and Ismael Queipul, meanwhile, continue to face persecution along with so many other Mapuche men and women who seek only to preserve the lands and rights of their ancestors.

Until both states choose to embody the democratic values they espouse and, most importantly, halt the unrestricted incursion of capital agents in the region that process will continue to play out as it always has, shedding more and more light on the extent of the political repression and economic subordination in both Chile and Argentina.

Mapuche attack occupation helicopters used to deforest territory

By The Women’s Coordinating Committee for a Free Wallmapu

What can only be described as an act of defiance against the State of Siege imposed by the Chilean State was carried out this morning (December 31st), against the Chilean occupation and its Capitalist plunder in the province of Malleco.

The events took place nearby the town of Angol, a small distance away from a police station. It involved the complete arson of a helicopter belonging to Mininco Forestry Inc, and the partial damage of another.
The events also included the alleged assault of a police officer, who was subdued by the “assailants,” according to various media reports.

We should remember that the Chilean government had ordered more police presence to Mapuche territory, in which several reinforcements were brought from various parts of the country. This also included the use of surveillance planes, or drones, with infrared cameras and heat detectors, in order to control and monitor the movement in the area, especially at night.

Nothing worked; the permanent police presence used to prevent unidentified people from entering site proved to be a dismal failure. A private contractor is used to maintain planes and other equipment for Mininco Forestry Inc, where the two planes were set on fire, destroying one and damaging the other.

Second Helicopter Attack in the Area

This is the second time that Forestry planes have been targeted in the area of Malleco.  An earlier incident included a helicopter that was shot in a rural area of Ercilla.

Forestry Companies: The Ugliest Face of Capitalism in Wallmapu

The forestry companies represent the worst aspect that Capitalism has shown to Mapuche community members in Wallmapu. Their extreme extractive activities have only generated disaster for communities, including toxic fumes, the disappearance of rivers, brooks and streams, as well as the extinction of the natural flora and fauna of the area which serve as food and medicine for the Mapuche People. These are the main effects, among others, of the industry financed by the Chilean State through Law 701.

Moreover, the enormous extensions of land currently held by the Forestry companies lie on stolen land from Mapuche communities. These corporate properties are directly related to the territorial plunder of the Mapuche People.

Three Families against a People

This business not only is targeted against the Mapuche People; it also excludes the thousands of Chileans that have maintained this industry through subsidized taxes for the last 20 years. The property concentrated by the forestry industry lies in the hands of only three families: Angelini, Matte and Carey, whom own companies such as Bosques Arauco, CMPC and Masisa respectively.

Bosques Arauco alone encompasses almost 1.2 million hectares, with Mininco Forestry Inc at 700,000 hectares, which does not include the many uncertified estates in the area.

According to an official report, the forestry companies posses almost three million hectares in southern Chile – in other words – Wallmapu. This accounts to almost 30% of our traditional Mapuche Territory [south of the Bio Bio River], in comparison with only 700,000 hectares held by Mapuche communities, accounting for only 7% of traditional territory.

From Warrior Publications:

Fracking and oil drilling threatening Mapuche people in Argentina

By Hernán Scandizzo, Latinamerica Press

Members of the Mapuche community say the Argentine government’s aggressive push to increase energy supplies by allowing oil companies to explore in their lands will cause irreversible environmental and social damage.

According to Argentina´s Energy Secretariat, close to 87 percent of Argentina’s energy is generated from fossil fuels. The government agency said that in 1988 Argentina had enough gas supplies for 36 years. But by 2009, this outlook was slashed to seven years. Oil supplies fell from 14 to nine in the same period.

Additionally, starting in 2003, when the economy was stabilizing after its financial collapse two years earlier, consumption of fossil fuels increased sharply. A report of the US Energy Information Administration said that the use of oil and oil products increased more than 37 percent between 2003 and 2010 in Argentina, while gas consumption increased 23 percent in the same period. To cover its energy needs, Argentina’s fuel imports, mainly of liquefied natural gas, gasoil and fuel oil, increased more than seven times, from US$549 million to US$4.5 billion, according to Argentina’s Economy Ministry.

In December 2010, Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales, or YPF, owned by the Spanish firm Repsol, announced it found a large shale gas reserve, in Loma de la Lata in the southern Neuquen province, and then it found an even bigger one in the same site.

Now other oil companies, including the US-based Chevron, Exxon and Apache, and the France´s Total, are exploring in Neuquen.

According to the US Department of Energy, Argentina is home to the world’s third-largest potential reserves of unconventional gas, with a potential 774 trillion cubic feet, behind only to China with 1.28 trillion cubic feet and the United States with 862 trillion cubic feet.

There is also hydrocarbon exploration in Rio Negro province. The provincial governments of Mendoza and Chubut are evaluating whether to allow for exploration there, too. The Entre Rios province, which has no history of gas exploration, signed an agreement with Repsol-YPF in 2009 for unconventional hydrocarbon exploration, and established an agreement with Uruguay for cross-border exploration with the state oil company Ancap.

New conflicts emerge

But there are consequences for the indigenous groups who live in the path of the expansion.

“There is no doubt that all of the official announcements about these mega-fields are a direct and clear threat to the life and culture of the affected Mapuche communities,” said Jorge Nahuel, a member of the Xawvnko Area Council of the Neuquen Mapuche Confederation.

Last November, members of the Gelay Ko community in Neuquen blocked work on a gas well on their land that US oil company Apache had been drilling, saying that they were not previously consulted of the project. They demanded that the provincial government create two commissions, one to evaluate the social, cultural and environmental impact, and the other for control and monitoring.

Fracking uses millions of gallons of water mixed with chemicals and sand at high pressure, to break through rock like shale to free natural gas and oil.

“There is no policy in place to measure the impact of this new technology,” said Nahuel. “That is what the communities are reacting to, in Loma de la Lata and in the central part of the province.”

Oil and gas exploration began 60 years ago, and indigenous residents estimate that there are 200 wells there and they have been demanding an end to the activity in the area for the last decade.

Mapuche community authority Cristina Lincopán of the village, said the government brings water each month in trucks to the area from Zapala, a city 60 kilometers (38 miles), because the water is so contaminated from the oil industry.

She said that community members are suffering from blindness, skin diseases and diarrhea.

“The truth is the company Apache is killing us day after day,” she said.

In September 2001, German consultancy Umweltshutz provided the Kaxipayiñ and Paynemil communities an environmental impact study that found 630,000 cubic meters of soil contaminated with chromium, lead, arsenic, naphtaline and pyrene, as well as other heavy metals in the water above legally accepted levels.

Gabriel Cherqui, a werken, or spokesman from the Kaxipayíñ community, said that since early 2011, they blocked YFP from exploring in the region because local government officials failed to clean up the current environmental damage. In 2002, his community, along with the neighboring Paynemil village filed a lawsuit against Repsol-YPF for social-environmental and cultural damage. Back then the cleanup cost was estimated at US$445 million, and is now at US$1.6 billion, according to Cherqui.

Even though Argentina ratified Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization on indigenous peoples, one of whose main points is the previous consultation of indigenous groups, the state has not ensured this.

Now it is an issue local courts are evaluating. In February, Judge Mario Tommasi in Cutral Có town in Neuquen rejected an injunction request by Petrolera Piedra del Águila to do seismic testing in the Huenctru Trawel Leufú Mapuche community. Meanwhile, in March, the provincial Supreme Court approved an injunction against Chinese company Emprendimientos Mineros for copper exploration in the Mellao Morales community.

James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples, who visited Argentina in late 2011, said the country’s institutions need to do more to defend indigenous peoples’ human rights.

In a press conference, he said the government needs to regulate the consultation process before extractive industry projects can receive a green light.

Other encroachments on indigenous lands

According to figures from the Neuquen Observatory on Indigenous Peoples’ Indigenous Rights, there are 59 Mapuche communities in the region, 19 of them affected by the oil industry or on the radar of companies looking to expand exploration.

Five of them – Logko Purrán, Gelay Ko, Antipan, Kaxipayiñ and Paynemil – are home to gas exploitation. Oil is being extracted from Wiñoy Folil, Maliqueo and Marifil; and in 11 others, there are concessions for exploration of either.

Salta, in northern Argentina, is also the scene of conflicts over extractive industry in or near the lands of indigenous peoples. In October and November of 2011, the Wichí Lewetes Kalehi and Lote 6 communities in the municipality of Rivadavia Banda Norte tried to stop seismic testing on their lands and reported being harassed by the company Wicap, which was contracted by the Unión Transitoria de Empresas Maxipetrol, as well as by police.

In the Chubut province, in Patagonia, an exploration/exploitation concession in Ñirihuau Sur, in June 2011, put Mapuche Tehuelche communities on alert. In mid-October, they held a trawun, or parliament, to evaluate the impacts of the industry, in which Neuquen Mapuche also participated.

It was a similar story in Chaco, where the province was divided into 12 blocks, some of them including Wichi, Qom and Moquit lands. In mid-2011, the Servicios Energéticos del Chaco-Empresa del Estado Provincial and Argentina Energy Service, a state-owned company, started exploring for hydrocarbons.

From Gáldu

“Green” Marble for Bin Laden Pollutes Italian Land

“Green” Marble for Bin Laden Pollutes Italian Land

Editor’s note: The mining industry is one of the most significant human rights violators in the world. Mines are one of the most dangerous and hazardous places to work. People do not willingly let go of their subsistence economies to work in mines and quarries. They have to be forced to do so. One of the ways mining companies do that is by taking away the means of a subsistence economy. This is the story of many mines across the world. In this piece, we bring to you a story from Tuscany, Italy. It traces out the history of marble quarrying in the Mountains of the Moon (Apuan Alps), and the struggle by local communities against the quarries.

By Miguel Martinez/Kelebek Blog

Four of us set out from Florence, with dawn beginning to light up the waters of the Arno, for Carrara, city of marble, sea, quarrymen and anarchists.

Where the global marble business has stolen the ancient commons of the local inhabitants with the complicity of political forces of the right and left, and every year extracts five million tons of irreplaceable limestone: some 80% is scrap used as calcium carbonate CaCo3, a filler in paper, glass, plastics, paint, beauty creams, but above all, toothpaste.

We are going to attend a crowded conference to which every local councillor had been invited, yet not a single one had the courage to show up.

You may not know that in the northwestern corner of Tuscany there is a mountain range, unique in Europe, a mere 55 kilometres long, that has nothing to do with the nearby, smooth Apennines: the range is that of the Mountains of the Moon, known today as the “Apuan Alps“, because of their craggy peaks – from the Pania della Croce I looked over the Tyrrhenian Sea from Elba on the left to Corsica to beyond Genoa on the right, nearly to France.

Picture by Claudio Grande

Those mountains were raised from the bottom of the sea floor, by countless billions of tiny uncelebrated lives of creatures with calcareous shells, corals, molluscs, and fish with their bones. It took them some three hundred million years, till all their seaworld was thrust up into the sky.

“Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made,
Those are pearls that were his eyes,
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea change,
into something rich and strange,
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell,
Hark! now I hear them, ding-dong, bell.”

Those flickering underwater lives became the world’s most renowned source of marble. Marmo di Carrara…

A world of peaks and caves and underground cavities like the Antro della Corchia, but like many others no one has yet explored, something like what Gimli spoke of in the Lord of the Rings:

“My good Legolas, do you know that the caverns of Helm’s Deep are vast and beautiful? There would be an endless pilgrimage of Dwarves, merely to gaze at them, if such things were known to be. Aye indeed, they would pay pure gold for a brief glance!’

‘And I would give gold to be excused,’ said Legolas; ‘and double to be let out, if I strayed in!’

‘You have not seen, so I forgive your jest,’ said Gimli. ‘But you speak like a fool. Do you think those halls are fair, where your King dwells under the hill in Mirkwood, and Dwarves helped in their making long ago? They are but hovels compared with the caverns I have seen here: immeasurable halls, filled with an everlasting music of water that tinkles into pools, as fair as Kheled-zâram in the starlight.”

The law that has been cast over the world in the last centuries knows only the faceless state on the one hand, and private property on the other: where private stems from the Roman idea of someone de-priving everybody else of something.

Both the state and private property were alien to the Commons of those who were bold enough to live in the mountains: shepherds, farmers and quarrymen of the marble that could be used for a pillar in Rome, then for a statue by Donatello or – much more often – for a gravestone to remember the dead: a friend of mine has a house at Minazzana, where Michelangelo, just 22, used to stop over, to select the right marble for the Pietà.

Some ninety years ago, one of the greatest and least remembered poets of the English language, Basil Bunting, came to live under the shadows of the Mountains of the Moon:

White marble stained like a urinal
cleft in Apuan Alps,
always trickling, apt to the saw. Ice and wedge
split it or well-measured cordite shots,
while paraffin pistons rap, saws rip
and clamour is clad in stillness:
clouds echo marble middens, sugar-white,
that cumber the road stones travel
to list the names of the dead.

There is a lot of Italy in churchyards,
sea on the left, the Garfagnana
over the wall, la Cisa flaking
to hillside fiddlers above Parma,
melancholy, swift,
with light bow blanching the dance.

Marble quarrying is by its very nature irreversible destruction. Basil Bunting could already hear the “well-measured cordite shots“, but before that came two thousand years of pickaxes hewing the rock.

The countless thousands of quarrymen who fell to their deaths, who were crushed as they rolled gigantic blocks of marble down the lizze, wheels made of tree trunks, could never regrow what they destroyed.

Yet the mountains were vast, gravestones countless yet small, and Michelangelos few: the true assault on the mountains is far more recent – in the last thirty years, more marble has been extracted than in all previous human history.

The first change came in the eighteenth century, when Tuscany’s most beloved ruler, the enlightened Pietro Leopoldo, suppressed the ancient custom of the death penalty.

But while he was at it, he also began to suppress the ancient custom of democracy; and started the privatisation of what had once been Commons, usi civici, domini collettivi, as they are still called today.

This was when a young man from Wakefield in England, William Walton, embodying the whole New World, arrived in the village of Serravezza:

“An active young man well versed in commercial and financial practices, young Walton is also gifted with a remarkable aptitude for solving organisational and technical problems and in this early period of his stay in Italy he looked around
in search of the most profitable industrial or commercial activity.”


Walton turned the world of small craftsmen upside down:

“By 1866 Walton headed an industrial and commercial empire which covered all the aspects of marble production, quarrying, transport, sawmills, and sea transport to the customers”

British and French fought each other in a senseless war that led to the death of millions; but found themselves together in exploiting the Apuan Alps.

More on marble quarrying

Jean Baptiste Alexandre Henraux, a Napoleonic soldier charged with the task of stealing works of art out of Italy and bringing them to the Louvre, took the fine title of “Royal Superintendent of the selection and acquisition of white and statuary marble from Carrara for public monuments in France“.

In the very same years when the colonizers of North America were stealing land from the Native Americans, Henraux and his heirs opened 132 quarries, seizing possession of the commons belonging to the Comunità civica della Cappella “Civic Community of the Chapel”, so named for one of those places of worship where mountain people looking at the skies and feeling the icy wind, thank the saints for still being alive.

Today, the Henraux have faded out: in 2014, the company was bought out by CPC Marble & Granite, based in Cyprus,

the major supplier of all finishing material to Makkah and Madinah Holy Mosques Expansions”

but above all, a member of the Binladen Group Global Holding Company: in 2018, Osama‘s less famous brother, Bakr, while in gaol for corruption, transferred his share to the Saudi government. So today, Anrò as the locals quaintly call the Henraux company, is actually a part of the worldwide network of Saudi power.

People from Riomagno, Azzano, Fabiano, Giustagnana, Minazzana, Basati, Cerreta Sant’Antonio and Ruosina, to cite ancient names, dispossessed like the Sioux and Mapuche: it is curious to note how many Italians stand for distant peoples, yet know nothing about their neighbours. And how other Italians, who complain of Islamic invasion when a few immigrants come to pray together, fall silent when the Saudi government takes over slices of Italian land.

Fragments of Italian laws still recognise the basic principle underlying the Commons: that there is not only the bureaucrat versus the individual, but that what existed before both, also has rights: not the ‘it’ of the state versus the ‘I’, but we-our-people.

Today, the Comunità civica della Cappella is claiming back the stolen land.

And it has won cases in court.

So, the centre-right mayor of the municipality of Serravezza invented an agreement with the landrobbers, to give them almost everything, while leaving some woods in the hands of the Civic Community.

This decision required the approval of the representatives of the Civic Community, who of course were not willing to sign.

Then the Regional Government, in the hands of the centre-left party, found a way to prevent the Civic Community from regularly electing a board which could object to the decision of the centre-right mayor.

Corporations, faceless global acronyms, can today exploit not only the lands the commoners once owned, but also public lands, with what are called “grants“. Grants are for a limited period, but as they expire, the Regional Government has devised a creative way of greenwashing.

The commoners’ pickaxes left minimal waste; but the well measured cordite shots turned most of the marble into waste, currently 75% is allowed, in some cases, 95%.

However, if companies, instead of just leaving the waste on the ground in the great ravaneti which mark the territory, turn even that waste into profit for themselves as calcium carbonate for toothpaste and beauty cream, their grants are extended for years.

The rest of the waste becomes marmèttola, a fine white powder which enters the mysterious underground cavities of the Apuan Alps, where rainwater flows in becoming springs and lakes, and renders these waters undrinkable.

Ironically, this whole area is officially a “UNESCO Global Geopark“.

As everywhere else, global corporations seek local complicity.

First of all, speaking of employment. The local newspaper, reporting the conference we went to (or rather, “ecologists march on the Apuan Alps“), quoted a marbledealer in its title, “If we close down, we’ll all die here”.

Actually, the global corporations have cut every possible workplace, through technological innovation. With production at a level never seen before, employment is down to a few hundred people, against 20.000 employed some decades ago.

At the same time, marble blocks, instead of being processed locally, are shipped directly to China. However, the first cut is made in Italy, which is enough to make patriotic rightists feel all is well.

The Fondazione Marmo, the Marble Foundation paid for by the global dealers, pays for many local initiatives where a park becomes “green” and “inclusive” through planting some trees, marble statues speak of “peace“, “marble is on the side of women“, “marble for health“. And other Orwellian words which make every left-leaning heart beat happily.

Thousands of local people, in a small community, can be bought over this way, blending the donation of minor hospital equipment, with the mirage of jobs, with the idea of continuing the work of Michelangelo.

While the cancer rate in the area, unsurprisingly, is the highest in the region, as is the unemployment rate.

And of course, there will be no water in a few years, when all the springs have been poisoned, and no jobs when artificial intelligence has taken over even the job of the people who write obedient titles in the local press.

Attacks Against Critical Infrastructures in Chile

Attacks Against Critical Infrastructures in Chile

Editor’s Note: A successful environmental movement will result from a coordination between aboveground political action and underground action against critical infrastructures. For security of the overall movement, DGR remains an aboveground organization. We do not have any links with any sort of underground groups. The following is a piece that is republished from Act for Freedom about three attacks against critical infrastructure in Chile.

Via Sans Nom (trans. by Act for Freedom)

Los Álamos (Chile), June 9, 2023. The pylon of the high-voltage power line failed to withstand the shock of the attack.

In the course of one long weekend, three explosive attacks hit various critical infrastructures in Chile. On Friday June 9, 2023, two high-voltage pylons were hit first. One at dawn in the municipality of Placilla, some ten kilometers east of Valparaíso, where Chile’s largest port and industrial facilities are located. The second, at around 11 p.m., took place in Los Álamos (Bío Bío region), home to the special forces bases of the Carabineros and the Navy, one of the centers of Chile’s repressive policies. While the first pylon, with two of its four support bars damaged, remained standing, the second collapsed to the ground, cutting off power between Cañete and Tirúa in the Los Álamos area.

The third attack occurred at around 3am on Tuesday June 13, on the railway bridge over the Itata river in the Ñuble region. The bridge, whose sleepers were blown up and rails shattered by the explosion, is used for freight trains, and in particular for the movement of raw materials such as the thousands of industrial eucalyptus trees destined to supply the Nueva Aldea pulp mill of the Arauco company (Angelini Group). Owned by Chile’s national railroad company (EFE), the line was operated by Ferrocarril del Pacífico (Fepasa), the main rail freight company in the south-central region of the country.

Following this series of coordinated attacks on strategic infrastructure in three different regions of Chile, (leftist) President Gabriel Boric took the opportunity to call an extraordinary meeting of all branches of government, at which he set the objective of making a reform proposal within 30 days, to simplify the Anti-Terrorism Act to facilitate prosecutions. As is always the case in such cases, the aim is on the one hand for the government to make an announcement to assert that it is not standing idly by, and on the other hand to reinforce the authoritarian face of the state by bringing out an old project that was already in its files. Finally, investigators from the Carabinieri’s OS-9 group announced that they would be studying footage of toll roads located near the attack sites, and that they were also in the process of collecting data on which phones were active near the affected infrastructures on the days and times of the attacks.

On June 14, 2023, in a communiqué sent to the press, these three consecutive attacks were claimed by a new coordination that had joined the panorama of diffuse guerrilla groups already present in Chile (notably in Mapuche territory): the Movimiento 18 de Octubre, or October 18 Movement, whose name is an explicit reference to the Chilean uprising that broke out on that day four years ago, following an increase in ticket prices. On October 18, 2019, the first day of the uprising, 77 of the capital’s 136 metro stations had been destroyed (20 of them completely burned), before it spread over several months.

In the communique, the October 18 Movement begins by taking responsibility for “three explosive attacks on capitalist infrastructures: the sabotage perpetrated in Valparaíso by Comando Mauricio Arenas Bejas, in Bío Bío by Comando Lafkenche Pilmaiquen and in Ñuble by Comando Luisa Toledo”.

One of these groups takes its name from Mapuche territory (the Pilmaiquen river flows through the territory of the coastal Mapuche, the Lafkenche). The second is named after Mauricio Arenas Bejas, one of those responsible for the attempted assassination of General-Dictator Pinochet on September 7, 1986, who was arrested and shot seven times in the body by the police the following year, then escaped from Púbica prison in 1990, before dying the following year at the age of 33. As for Luisa Toledo, who died in 2021 at the age of 82, she was a left-wing militant respected in many revolutionary milieus, notably for her struggle under the Pinochet dictatorship (but not only) for the memory of her two sons murdered by carabinieri in 1985 (they were members of the MIR), and also for her participation/defense of riotous demonstrations under democracy, including those of the October 2019 uprising.

As for the more precise content of this first claim of the October 18 Movement, which concludes with “Freedom for all political prisoners of the revolt, for the Mapuche, for the anarchists and for the subversives. A new ghost haunts Chile”, here is a longer excerpt translated from Spanish:

“The whole legal-political framework [that of drafting a new Constitution] undoubtedly seeks to consolidate the new process of capitalist accumulation through dispossession, where land and water have become the new commodities at the expense of the people under the pretext of economic growth. And here again, the government, which claims to be left-wing, has put its stamp of approval on the TPP11 [Free Trade Treaty between 11 countries in the Pacific zone signed in 2018], with the expansion of the Los Bronces mining company, the Quintero-Puchuncavi industrial pollution and its crude denial of the ecological disaster that the logging industry has generated in Wallmapu…. The new order conceived by the political and business classes seeks to annihilate the dignified Mapuche resistance that, day after day, confronts the logging companies and landowners who usurp their ancestral territory. In recent weeks, we’ve seen how the government and the right have orchestrated an operation to punish Mapuche political prisoners in Angol prison, dispersing them to different jails and removing them from their communities and families. We understand that Mapuche resistance upsets the capitalists, who have their interests in Mapuche territory, and that’s why they need to strike at their morale in an attempt to subdue them. But we also know that they won’t succeed despite the state of emergency, the unprecedented militarization and the legislative agenda of the political class that has passed the law against timber theft and will soon enact the Ley de usurpaciones, which aims to protect private property against land occupations [by lengthening the duration of sentences and making it easier to incarcerate illegal occupiers]. In this context, we send our fraternal greetings to the people of the Mapuche nation, its political prisoners on hunger strike and its communities in resistance, and may they count on us for future conspiracies.”

And finally, it would have been a shame to not mention the official statement by Chile’s Attorney General, Ángel Valencia, interviewed on Tuesday June 20 on T13 Radio, in which he commented on the triple attack: “Up to now, we have investigated incidents involving explosive devices located in urban areas. The fact that these were in rural areas presents us with an additional challenge in terms of evidence. In urban areas, we have surveillance cameras or Bip! cards [urban transport cards] and other electronic elements which help us to locate those responsible for the attacks. In the countryside, it’s much harder to find such clues. We’re talking here about attacks on critical infrastructure, and there’s no doubt that the situation is worrying.”

Photo by Brandon Hoogenboom on Unsplash