By Carlos Aznarez – Aug 21, 2020
Marcelo Oses is an intelligent popular communicator, he knows how to speak in simple language to those who have been rebelling against the fascist government of Sebastián Piñera. Not surprisingly, Marcelo is one of the founders of that extraordinary medium known as Radio Plaza de la Dignidad, which has accompanied the most intense mass movements in the square of the same name with its music and harangues. We spoke with him about the Mapuche rebellion and the preparations for reviving the streets of Chile in the coming months, just one year after the revolt that shook the political chessboard of the country.
There is no doubt that the Mapuche people are engaged in an important struggle against the oppressive Chilean state that is increasingly revealing its racist character. How does this struggle look to those who, like you, are part of the Chilean revolt against the Piñera government?
The current moment of the Mapuche movement is critical in the sense that after the October revolt began, the Mapuche communities in resistance, in general, chose a certain distance from what was happening in the rest of the Chilean territories. Their attitude was one of contemplation of the situation. We spoke with several Mapuche leaders considering the historical demand, the symbolism, the cultural aspects, the need for the Mapuche people’s s autonomy to be one of the centers of the revolt in Chile. And they noted this with the idea that the liberation of the Chilean people is part of the liberation of the Mapuche people, although with some distance from their current conceptions. This is important for understanding what is happening today. The hunger strike, the release of political prisoners who are in different prisons in the south, this struggle is necessarily linked to historical demands. It is not an isolated event, not that Machi Celestino would like to return to his rewe for a ceremony, but it has to do with the profound struggle for the recovery of land and mainly for political, popular, and economic autonomy. They have been fighting for this for a long time and today it has acquired a very clear focus.
On the other hand, there is the evidence of the reappearance on the scene of racist sectors such as those who acted in Curacautín and La Victoria.
That’s right, there was an attack by fascist paramilitary groups that targeted Mapuche families, with children and women, who were occupying different municipalities to the south in Wallmapu in support of the prisoners’ hunger strike. They were violently evicted with the help of the police of the municipality, of the state. They were organized into literally paramilitary gangs, with weapons, ranging from knives to firearms. They managed to break into places where the Mapuche communities are not as strong as they are in the city. They violently dragged people out, the police covered up their actions and took the Mapuche people into custody, not the aggressors, in this case. What is happening with this situation? The axis of the demand was the freedom of the Mapuche political prisoners. But now this scenario is a fight against racism, against a state that uses all possible mechanisms to prevent the Mapuche from having a political voice. That resituates the issues because today solidarity with the Chilean people is growing, slowly but surely, but it is because of the deeper demands of the Mapuche people and not just because of the hunger strike and freedom.
During the massive demonstrations of the revolt, before the pandemic, it was striking to see so many Mapuche flags in Santiago and other cities.
This is an important change and we all ask ourselves when we raise flags and slogans of the Mapuche culture, this cannot become an ornament of our demonstrations. The Mapuche symbolism has to be incorporated into the popular struggle in all its complexity. This necessarily forces the underlying theme, which is that the Mapuche people are different from the Chilean people. And that implies a restructuring of the territories and the Wallmapu State. There is a territory that needs to be administered by the Mapuche people. Different from how the Chilean state does it. That is placed in the center. The fascist hordes restructure them to such an extent that one of their slogans is that the Mapuche are an invention of the left. They return to the archaic idea that they are Chileans, that their ancestors were Araucanians but today they have no need or right to have their own identity or autonomy. We haven’t seen this for a long time. Now they are appearing publicly, they are new actors, like the traditional and coup-plotting cargo transport guild, which was one of the great promoters of the boycott and Pinochet’s coup d’état.
Truckers have offered to “clean” the routes of piketes” by beating the Mapuche.
Of course, those same people have had the entire rostrum to launch their anti-Mapuche messages. Days ago they gathered at La Moneda and were received by the Minister of the Interior. They held press conferences as they left, with the complicity of the rogue press that provides them with coverage, and simply presented their ultimatums. In addition, Piñera recently introduced a bill to increase penalties for those who attempt to transport people. His main claim is the burning of trucks in Mapuche territory. Of course, this enormous conflict is taking place because it is dragging down all the workers in the union. They talk about the truckers as if they were the drivers, but they are the owners of the transport companies. Unfortunately, the union workers have historically been very partial to the boss. It is one of the unions that has accepted the policy of the employers. So they have strengthened this idea of fascist self-defense, even issuing an ultimatum that if the government was not able to defend them, they would do so by their own hand. So the government has active support from the extractivist companies, including the transport union, because the transport companies work for the extractivists and are ultimately the actual owners. But the struggle against the extractive, forestry, and mining companies in the Wallmapu area is the center of the fight. The Mapuche people practice direct and radical struggle against these extractive, forestry and mining companies mainly. This is the strategic perspective of these people, who are becoming more and more cohesive between the political struggle as we understand it today against capitalism, and on the other hand, the traditions of religious and spiritual political organization of the Mapuche people.
In view of what is happening in the South, how is your struggle. How can we envision what this struggle will be once the door to the so-called “new normal” is opened, despite the fact that during this quarantine there were clear expressions of rebellion, pots and pans and other forms of outrage?
It’s something that no one is clear about. How will the people express themselves again in the face of a very complex scenario, involving an economic, social and political crisis. We are in favor of this continuous revolt. We hope that it will rapidly occupy the public spaces that we have had for several months. That is what we would like. But mainly, the experience of the last few months is that we have higher degrees of organization than we had in the latter months of 2019. We managed a certain level of coordination, such as the one that has been taking place in the territory, through the communal pots and pans, the assemblies, etc. But these forums that are being created can have a real articulating power, of discussion of the political and social project that we want, of action. These are the main aspirations. We have the need for social and political organization, at a higher level than in recent months. The first requirement should be that, the second is to visualize how we are going to resume the popular mobilization in the city centers and also in the other areas. The rhythm and dynamics are not clear. A few days ago, we saw a right-wing pollster who said that 81 percent of those polled believe that the demonstrations will become as powerful or more so. More than 70 percent of those polled believe that the mobilizations are important for change. And the fact, which is more difficult to understand because of the political system, is that 39 percent of the people surveyed believe that there is no possibility of change without violence in the demonstrations. So there is a feeling that this is going to explode. No one knows. I have the impression that whether it is an option or not, the important thing is that there is a process that will bring about greater degrees of organization, that is solid, dynamic. It doesn’t matter that we depart from the demonstrations without major phenomena, we don’t have to go out and burn everything in the first place. But it is important that we go out consistently, that we put that degree of fear back into the political caste. The people can bring about change. It is intertwined with the November changes that were tossing the lifeline from the government to the opposition, that produced an institutional exit, with a plebiscite to change the national constitution, which is on the horizon, because that first milestone is the plebiscite that will take place on October 25 and on the 18th we celebrate the revolt. All in the same month.
There are those who say that voting or not voting for the plebiscite will not end the struggle, how do you see it?
What’s going on? The dispute is ongoing. Those who believe this way out would be a democratic process, changing the Constitution would change the institutions, so that is precisely where a greater degree of consensus is emerging. Who is going to pull the strings of that process? They are the same as always. Because there is a process in which the legalized political parties win, the right-wing and the Concertación. There is no possibility of other social and political forces being incorporated. First, we have a plebiscite calling for an institution with no teeth, no power, no authority to bring about the constitutional change we need. Secondly, those who will be participating by marking ballots are not the people themselves, there is no possibility that the people, through their organizations, can have spaces there. This whole institutional process is taking place in the midst of the reactivation. What is more important, to give stability to the process so that it begins with this plebiscite or to erode the political system from the streets? We, of course, are for the second option. There is no possibility of ending this neoliberal dictatorship if it is not in the streets. The program of the revolt is in force, beginning with the departure of Piñera. Without ambiguity: the exit of Piñera. Moreover, installing in the territories, as many ideologues of this process argue, the beginning of a process outside this legitimate institutional process. This constituent process aimed at achieving a real, free and sovereign assembly, and of course, the immediate release of all the prisoners of the revolt and the Mapuche, the establishment of truth and justice for the violation of all human rights in the last year, from the revolt onwards, the restructuring of the powers that have been at the service of the bourgeoisie, that is, the courts of justice that have been scoundrels, along with the police, both carabineros and investigations, and the armed forces.
All these tasks of the revolt that are at the heart of this constitutional process they are initiating, we have been overlooked. We are focused on these tasks and on this program that seems to us to be most important. So, we will measure the forces in October, from the streets. Those who want to close their campaign events on October 18, and those of us who are going to be pushing for the people’s mobilization for the exit of the dictator and the demands that we are making. And that is a relatively theoretical debate, because the real mobilizations in the streets have been diminished by the pandemic, beyond what we have done on various occasions in July, we have had many popular mobilizations, but they have not reached a level that challenges the government. We are just emerging, the doors of confinement are opening. We are told “you can come out now” and the calls begin to rise instantly and to intersect with this conflict as to where we are going to go. The question is whether those who are pushing for change are going to impose themselves on the institutional process or seek the street for deep change.
Feature image: Marcelo Hernandez