Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Fighting for Freedom

In what might be termed a classic neoliberal response to the peaceful quest for freedom by indigenous peoples, the government of Chile recently attacked the Rapanui parliament, clubbing women and children in the process. For Chile, which is facing the reality of indigenous autonomy in the form of resistance to neocolonial development on property belonging to indigenous nations like Mapuche and Rapanui, getting unstuck from the conquistador model is proving troublesome. Rather than face up to the moral challenge of respectful reconciliation in a forthright manner, Chile has chosen to follow the US lead in declaring any move by indigenous governments toward full autonomy or independence as terrorism. In the case of the Rapanui, who are non-violent, Chile has had to result to guilt by association, claiming (without any evidence) that they are in contact with ETA, the Basque liberation army.

As the liberation of indigenous peoples proceeds apace with neoliberal assaults on their dignity and integrity, friends and allies of indigenous freedom need to attack the notion that by fighting for their freedom indigenous nations pose a threat to economic stability or world peace. In fact, the reverse is true; when states like China, Israel and the US stop denying indigenous peoples their human rights, then peace can prevail.

But the friends and allies of the World Indigenous Peoples’ Movement must also recognize the right of indigenous nations to defend themselves and their territories against neoliberal states and corporations. While we’d all prefer that fight take place in peaceful proceedings, the fact remains that violent police, vigilante and military assaults by states sometimes force indigenous societies to resort to arms. As the leading proponent and perpetrator of armed aggression, as well as the least sincere in its endorsement of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the United States has long ceased to be a beacon of freedom; its failed attempt to mount a coup against the indigenous head of state in Bolivia should serve as a warning to indigenous freedom fighters worldwide.

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