Spy Agency says federal Trans Mountain pipeline purchase seen as ‘Betrayal’ by many opponents

An Indigenous man raises his drum above his head as he and others are silhouetted while singing during a protest against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion in Vancouver on Tuesday May 29, 2018. (CANADIAN PRESS)

Canada’s spy agency says many members of the environmental and Indigenous communities see the federal purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline as a betrayal, and suggests that could intensify opposition to expanding the project.

A Canadian Security Intelligence Service assessment highlights a renewed sense of indignation among protesters and clearly indicates the spy service’s ongoing interest in anti-petroleum activism.

The Canadian Press used the Access to Information Act to obtain a heavily censored copy of the June CSIS brief, originally classified top secret.

Civil liberties and environmental activists questioned the rationale for CSIS’s interest, given that opposition to the pipeline project has been peaceful.

CSIS spokeswoman Tahera Mufti stressed the spy service is committed to following the governing legislation that forbids it to probe lawful protest and dissent.

“While we cannot publicly disclose our investigative interests, we can say that it is important for the service to pose important analytical questions on these types of issues, such as the question of whether developments such as the purchase of a pipeline could give rise to a national-security threat to Canada’s critical infrastructure.”

Earlier this year, Kinder Morgan dropped plans to twin an existing pipeline that carries about 300,000 barrels of bitumen daily from Alberta to British Columbia. The federal government announced in late May it would buy the pipeline and related components for $4.5 billion.

The government intends to finance and manage construction of the second pipeline — which would increase the overall flow of bitumen to 890,000 barrels a day — and ultimately try to find a buyer.

The CSIS brief characterizes resistance to the pipeline project as a “developing intelligence issue.”

“Indigenous and non-Indigenous opponents of the project continue to highlight the increasing threats to the planet as a result of climate change and the incompatibility of new pipeline and oil sands projects with Canada’s 2015 commitment under the Paris Climate Accord,” the brief says. “At the same time, many within the broader Indigenous community view the federal government’s purchase and possible financing, construction and operation of an expanded bitumen pipeline as wholly incompatible with its attempts at Crown-Indigenous reconciliation.”

The pipeline acquisition and commitment to complete the project is therefore “viewed as a betrayal” by many within both the environmental and Indigenous communities, CSIS says.

“Indigenous opposition at the grassroots level remains strong. In response to the federal purchase, numerous Indigenous and environmental organizations have restated their commitment to prevent construction.”

The brief singles out the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, noting it has signatories from over 50 North American First Nations in its bid to halt the project. It also features a May quote from Canadian environmental organization Stand.earth that the decision “will haunt the Trudeau government.”

The intelligence brief was completed a little more than two months before the Federal Court of Appeal quashed government approval of the pipeline project due to inadequate consultation with Indigenous groups and failure to properly assess the effect of increased tanker traffic in the waters off British Columbia.

In the wake of the court ruling, the federal government ordered the National Energy Board to reassess the tanker issue and asked a former Supreme Court justice to oversee fresh consultations with Indigenous communities.

The CSIS brief notes there had been “no acts of serious violence” stemming from peaceful demonstrations and blockades at Trans Mountain facilities in British Columbia that resulted in the arrest of more than 200 people, or at smaller protests across the country.

However, the document includes a section titled “Violent Confrontations and Resource Development” that mentions past conflicts over shale-gas development in New Brunswick and a high-profile pipeline in North Dakota.

It is unclear, because of the redactions to the document, exactly what CSIS was looking at, said Josh Paterson, executive director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, which has expressed strong concern about the spy service’s monitoring of activists.

In the information that has been released, there is no suggestion of a threat to national security or critical infrastructure, of clandestine activities or of violence in relation to the Trans Mountain project, Paterson said.

“While some opponents of the pipeline were arrested during protest for breaching a court order, that was a matter for police and the courts, and was done out in the open — it should not be a matter for our spy agency.”

Given past interest on the part of security and police officials, the CSIS brief is not surprising, said Tegan Hansen, a spokeswoman for Protect the Inlet, an Indigenous-led effort against the pipeline and tanker project.

But she is curious as to why the spy service document makes reference to sabotage and violent physical confrontations.

“I’m not sure why they’re trying to draw that connection with violence,” Hansen said. “I’d be interested to know. But it’s certainly not our intention to ever pursue violence.”

The Canadian Press, Nov 6. 2018

[SOURCE]

Advertisements

U.S. judge halts construction of Keystone XL oil pipeline

A federal judge in Montana halted construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline on Thursday on the grounds that the U.S. government did not complete a full analysis of the environmental impact of the TransCanada Corp project.

The ruling deals a major setback for TransCanada Corp and could possibly delay the construction of the $8 billion, 1,180 mile (1,900 km) pipeline.

The ruling is a victory for environmentalists, tribal groups and ranchers who have spent more than a decade fighting against construction of the pipeline that will carry heavy crude to Steele City, Nebraska, from Canada’s oilsands in Alberta.

U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris’ ruling late on Thursday came in a lawsuit that several environmental groups filed against the U.S. government in 2017, soon after President Donald Trump announced a presidential permit for the project.

Morris wrote in his ruling that a U.S. State Department environmental analysis “fell short of a ‘hard look’” at the cumulative effects of greenhouse gas emissions and the impact on Native American land resources.

He also ruled the analysis failed to fully review the effects of the current oil price on the pipeline’s viability and did not fully model potential oil spills and offer mitigations measures.

In Thursday’s ruling, Morris ordered the government to issue a more thorough environmental analysis before the project can move forward.

“The Trump administration tried to force this dirty pipeline project on the American people, but they can’t ignore the threats it would pose to our clean water, our climate, and our communities,” said the Sierra Club, one of the environmental groups involved in the lawsuit.

Trump supported building the pipeline, which was rejected by former President Barack Obama in 2015 on environmental concerns relating to emissions that cause climate change.

Trump, a Republican, said the project would lower consumer fuel prices, create jobs and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

Reuters

[SOURCE]

Standing Rock Sioux tribe challenges Corps findings on Dakota Access pipeline

A Standing Rock Sioux flag flies over a protest encampment near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, where members of the Standing Rock nations and their supporters gathered to voice their opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Photo by Robyn Beck/Getty Images)

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which is leading a four-tribe lawsuit against the four-state pipeline built by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, in court documents filed Thursday asked a federal judge to reject the findings.

“The corps has conducted a sham process to arrive at a sham conclusion, for the second time,” tribal Chairman Mike Faith said in a statement.

The pipeline has the capacity to move half of the oil produced daily in North Dakota, the nation’s second-leading producer behind Texas. It passes just north of the Standing Rock Reservation, beneath a Missouri River reservoir that is the tribe’s water source.

The pipeline has been moving North Dakota oil through South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois since June 2017. That same month, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled that the Corps largely complied with environmental law when permitting the pipeline but needed to do more study of its impact to tribal rights. The Corps filed its work with the court in late August.

Standing Rock’s challenge says the Corps “failed to grapple with extensive technical input provided by the tribe and others undermining its conclusions.” The major example the tribe offered is information it says shows the Corps has underestimated the risk and impact of an oil spill.

The tribe continues to maintain that the only lawful way to resolve the matter would be through a full environmental study that includes consideration of route alternatives.

The Corps had planned to do a more extensive environmental study before President Donald Trump took office in January 2017 and pushed through completion of the stalled project. The agency said in court documents in August that the additional study concluded a more thorough review is unwarranted. The tribe asks Boasberg to reject that conclusion.

By Associated Press

[SOURCE]

Minnesota panel issues formal permit for disputed Enbridge pipeline

Line 3 construction is already underway in Canada. Image: Enbridge

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Minnesota regulators have issued a formal order approving a route permit for Enbridge Energy’s plan to replace its aging Line 3 crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota.

The Public Utilities Commission approved the project in June. Its written order Friday followed one last month granting a certificate of need. If the commission denies petitions to reconsider those formal orders, opponents can ask the Minnesota Court of Appeals to overturn them.

Alberta-based Enbridge says it needs to replace Line 3, which was built in the 1960s, because it’s increasingly subject to corrosion and cracking.

But opponents say the new line, which would follow a partly different route, risks oil spills in the pristine Mississippi River headwaters region where Native Americans harvest wild rice, and that it would aggravate climate change.

PUC approves Line 3 route. Map by News Tribune on Oct 26, 2018

By Associated Press

[SOURCE]

Trans Mountain CEO says pipe construction could restart in 2019 on NEB timeline

CALGARY — The president and CEO of Trans Mountain Corp. says its sidelined pipeline project could be back on track by next year under a new National Energy Board hearing schedule, setting it up for a possible 2022 opening date.

The timeline unveiled by the federal pipeline regulator on Wednesday is “reasonable and fair,” said Ian Anderson, the former CEO of Kinder Morgan Canada who became head of the resulting Crown corporation when Ottawa closed its $4.5-billion purchase of the pipeline and its expansion project in early September.

He told reporters in Calgary it’s possible construction that was halted when the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the expansion project’s NEB approval in late August could be restarted in 2019.

“Sure, it’s possible,” he said. “If things go according to the timeline that’s been now started with the NEB and they have a recommendation by the middle of February and the government takes a few months for additional consultation, an order-in-council could be as early as next summer.”

He added construction is expected to take about 30 months, depending upon seasonal adjustments, which would mean the pipeline could be operational in 2022, about two years later than the most recent predicted in-service date.

The federal government approved the Trans Mountain expansion project in November 2016, following a recommendation by the NEB.

But the court cited insufficient consultation with Indigenous communities and a failure to assess the environmental impact of additional oil-tanker traffic in overturning that ruling.

Last week, the federal government ordered the NEB to go back and conduct a review of tanker traffic, paying special attention to the affect on killer whales, and issue its report no later than Feb. 22.

Environmentalists were quick to criticize the NEB’s schedule, which calls for public comments by next Wednesday on draft factors for the environmental assessment, the draft list of issues to be considered in the hearing and on the design of the hearing process itself.

Indigenous groups who are affected by the marine shipping issues but weren’t allowed to engage in the previous NEB process because of scope limits might have a difficult time preparing submissions in time, said Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada.

“Indigenous consultations are inextricably intertwined with review of marine impacts — orcas have important cultural significance — so charging ahead on this before sorting out the Indigenous consultation piece seems like a mistake,” he added.

Furthermore, the process is tainted by the fact that the government insists the project it now owns will be built no matter what, Stewart said.

The expansion will include a new pipeline running roughly parallel to the existing, 1,150-kilometre line that carries refined and unrefined oil products from the Edmonton area to Burnaby, B.C.

It will nearly triple the capacity to 890,000 barrels a day.

The NEB named Lyne Mercier, Alison Scott and Murray Lytle to the panel that will conduct its reconsideration of the project.

The Canadian Press

[SOURCE]

 

 

Trans Mountain pipeline approval quashed by Federal Court of Appeal


Kinder Morgan shareholders approve the sale of the project to Ottawa with 99% support less than an hour after the ruling

The Federal Court of Appeal dealt the Trans Mountain expansion project a major setback Thursday, ruling the government of Canada had not fulfilled its duty to consult with First Nations on the pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia.

The decision means the National Energy Board will have to redo its review of Kinder Morgan Canada’s project. In a written decision, the court says the energy board’s review was so flawed that the federal government could not rely on it as a basis for its decision to approve the expansion.

The court also concludes that the federal government failed in its duty to engage in meaningful consultations with First Nations before giving the green light to the project. That decision means the government will have to redo part of its consultations with Indigenous groups.

The judge wrote that “the consultation framework selected by Canada was reasonable and sufficient. If Canada properly executed it, Canada would have discharged its duty to consult.”

“However, based on the totality of the evidence I conclude that Canada failed in Phase III to engage, dialogue meaningfully and grapple with the concerns expressed to it in good faith by the Indigenous applicants so as to explore possible accommodation of these concerns,” the ruling states.

The Trans Mountain expansion would add shipments of 590,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to British Columbia by twinning an existing pipeline at an expected cost of $7.4 billion.

Kinder Morgan shareholders approved the sale of the pipeline with more than 99 per cent support Thursday, less than an hour after the federal government learned the pipeline construction permits had been quashed.

“No matter who owns this pipeline and tanker project, it will be stopped,” president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said in a release.

“Kinder Morgan executives recognized Justin Trudeau’s desperation to placate the oil lobby and are exiting the project with massive profits on the backs of Canadian taxpayers,” he said.

The Federal Court decision will effectively compel the NEB to repeat the third phase of its consultation process, which it carried out between February and November, 2016.

The NEB has not taken marine traffic implications into account in its prior decisions.

The regulator had argued that “since marine shipping was beyond its regulatory authority, it did not have the ability to impose specific mitigation conditions to address environmental effects” of increased marine traffic.

In recent years the NEB has been hobbled by broader questions about what should be the scope of its approval process. Last year, TransCanada Corp. halted its Energy East project after the NEB unexpectedly announced it would include downstream emissions in its environmental review of the pipeline.

Source: Financialpost.com

Montana judge orders review of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline route

Pipeline construction image. TransCanada

In setback for TransCanada, judge orders environmental review of Keystone XL pipeline revised route

(Reuters) – A federal judge in Montana has ordered the U.S. State Department to do a full environmental review of a revised route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, possibly delaying its construction and dealing another setback to TransCanada Corp.

For more than a decade, environmentalists, tribal groups, and ranchers have fought the $8-billion, 1,180-mile (1,900-km) pipeline that will carry heavy crude to Steele City, Nebraska, from Canada’s oilsands in Alberta.

U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris ruled late on Wednesday for the Indigenous Environmental Network and other plaintiffs, ordering the review of a revised pipeline route through Nebraska to supplement one the State Department did on the original path in 2014.

The State Department was obligated to “analyze new information relevant to the environmental impacts of its decision” to issue a permit for the pipeline last year, Morris said in his ruling.

Supporting the project are Canadian oil producers, who face price discounts over transport bottlenecks, and U.S. refineries and pipeline builders.

TransCanada is reviewing the decision, company spokesman Matthew John said. It hopes to start preliminary work in Montana in the coming months and to begin construction in the second quarter of 2019.

The company said this month it expects to make a final investment decision late this year or in early 2019.

The ruling is negative for TransCanada, since it adds uncertainty to timing, said RBC analyst Robert Kwan, and it was important that the pipeline be constructed during the current U.S. presidential cycle.

President Donald Trump is keen to see the building of the pipeline, which was axed by former President Barack Obama in 2015 on environmental concerns relating to emissions that cause climate change.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment. The State Department is reviewing the court’s order, a spokesman said.

The ruling was “a rejection of the Trump administration’s attempt to … force Keystone XL on the American people,” said Jackie Prange, a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.

Trump pushed to approve the pipeline soon after he took office, and a State Department official signed a so-called presidential permit in 2017 allowing it to move forward.

However, Morris declined the plaintiff’s request to void that permit, which was based on the 2014 review.

Last year, Nebraska regulators approved an alternative route for the pipeline, which will cost TransCanada millions of dollars more than the original path.

In a draft environmental assessment last month, the State Department said Keystone XL would not harm water supplies or wildlife. That review is less wide-ranging than the full environmental impact statement Morris ordered.

By Reuters 

[SOURCE]

 

Coke, Meth and Booze: The Flip Side of The Permian Oil Boom

Oil rig hands work on the floor of an oil and gas drilling rig in the Permian Basin near Farmington, New Mexico. (Image Encana Corp)

The fastest-growing oil region in the US is fueling not only the second American shale revolution—it’s fueling a subculture of drug and alcohol abuse among oil field workers.

The Permian shale play in West Texas is once again booming with drilling and is full of oil field workers, some of which are abusing drugs and alcohol to help them get through long shifts, harsh working conditions, and loneliness and isolation.

Drugs are easily accessible in the Permian, which is close to highways and to Mexico. For oil field workers making six-figure salaries, money is not a problem to buy all kinds of illegal substances to shoot, snort and swallow to get through 24-hour-plus shifts. The physically exhaustive work also sometimes causes aches for workers, making them susceptible to getting hooked on prescription painkillers.

The drug and alcohol abuse subculture in the Permian is a known—yet rarely reported or discussed—issue in the most prolific US shale play, where oil production is booming, and relentless drilling attracts oil field workers from all over Texas and all parts of the United States.

In Midland, in the very heart of the Permian oil boom, The Springboard Center—a drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility—has many clients from the oil fields, Christopher Pierce, director of marketing for center, tells Rigzone’s Valerie Jones in an interview.

“We get a lot of clients who work in the oilfield because of where we’re located,” says Pierce, 35, a former oil field worker, and a former addict.

Pierce and The Springboard Center in Midland are now working on building a gated living camp community free of drugs or alcohol for people who want to be in a safe place.

Oil workers are not speaking up at work about their addiction for fear of getting fired, Pierce said, adding that he doesn’t have anything negative to say about the oil industry, which is the backbone of the economic growth in the Permian.

Some oil field workers and contractors use drug cocktails or various substances depending on the condition they seek to achieve during their 24-hour-plus shifts. At the beginning of a long or overnight shift, they would use ‘uppers’ like cocaine and methamphetamines, and finish the shift with ‘downers’ such as prescription medication or alcohol, Kayla Fishbeck, regional evaluator for Prevention Resource Center Region 9, a data repository for 30 counties in West Texas, told Rigzone.

“In Region 9, the most screened drug last year was amphetamines and that was largely in the oilfield,” she said.

Thanks to the oil boom, the unemployment rate in Midland is at a record low 2.1 percent, and the unemployment rate in Odessa is also a historically low of 2.8 percent.

According to Fishbeck, Midland and Odessa are the top two Texas cities for drunken-driving fatalities.

“We hear stories of guys getting off their shift, getting a six-pack or 12-pack on their way home and start drinking in their truck,” Fishbeck told Rigzone.

The Permian’s drug of choice is crystal meth, a stimulant increasingly supplied by Mexican drug cartels, according to law enforcement officials who spoke to the Houston Chronicle in May.

There is a strong correlation between the rise of drilling activity and the number of crystal meth seizures by authorities in the Permian area, Houston Chronicle’s cross-analysis of data from the Texas Department of Public Safety and the rig count shows.

Eddy Lozoya, a former oil field trucker and a recovering addict at 23, has recently found a job at a local department store selling shoes. At least for the next few months, he doesn’t plan to return to the oil field.

“I don’t see myself being able to work 100 hours a week sober,” he told the Houston Chronicle. “The oil field is tough.”

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com

[SOURCE]

Failure to find buyer makes Federal government sole owner of Trans Mountain pipeline

Kinder Morgan sold the Trans Mountain Pipeline to the Government of Canada.

The federal government is set to become the official owner of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion after failing to quickly flip the project to another private-sector buyer.

Pipeline owner Kinder Morgan had been working with the government to identify another buyer before July 22.

But with that date set to pass without a deal, it was expected the pipeline company will now take Ottawa’s $4.5-billion offer to purchase the project to its shareholders.

The government had previously indicated that there were numerous groups interested in purchasing the controversial project, including pension funds and Indigenous groups.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s spokesman, Daniel Lauzon, said Ottawa still intends to sell the pipeline, if and when a suitable partner is identified and it’s in the best interests of Canadians.

“We have no interest in being a long-term owner of a pipeline, but we will be the temporary caretaker,” Lauzon told The Canadian Press on Sunday. “We won’t rush that.”

News of the failure to find another partner by July 22 came one day after protesters opposed to the Trans Mountain expansion took to Parliament Hill in hazardous-materials suits and carrying a fake pipeline.

It was the latest in a string of such rallies by environmental and Indigenous groups, which also included the erection of a similar cardboard pipeline outside the Canadian High Commission in London in April.

Lauzon on Sunday defended the decision to purchase the pipeline, saying the project, whose aim is to get Canadian oil to Asian markets, remains in the national interest.

The Trans Mountain expansion will build a new pipeline roughly parallel to the existing, 1,150-km line that carries refined and unrefined oil products from the Edmonton area to Burnaby, B.C.

It will nearly triple the line’s capacity to 890,000 barrels a day. Trans Mountain is the only pipeline carrying Alberta crude to the West Coast and the hope is that most of the oil will end up in tankers bound for Asia.

Ottawa approved the expansion project in November 2016 and British Columbia’s then-Liberal government followed suit two months later.

But four months after that, the provincial Liberals were replaced by the NDP under John Horgan, who has a coalition of sorts with the Green party that includes an agreement to oppose the expansion in every way possible.

The federal government has said its hand was forced by Horgan, who has gone to court for judicial approval to regulate what can flow through the pipeline — a measure of opposition that made Kinder Morgan Canada, the project’s original owner, too nervous to continue.

The company halted all non-essential spending on the pipeline expansion in April pending reassurances from Ottawa that the project would come to fruition.

The federal government had said Canada would cover any cost overruns caused by B.C.’s actions, but in the end that wasn’t enough.

Following the government’s announcement that it planned to purchase the pipeline, Kinder Morgan agreed to start construction this summer as planned.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

[SOURCE]

Indigenous Chileans Defend their Land against Loggers with Radical Tactics

A Mapuche gathering in Ercilla, Chile. The Mapuche are protesting the presence of agricultural firms on their land. Photograph: Rodrigo Abd/AP

Chile’s Mapuche people are resorting to increasingly extreme tactics to reclaim their ancestral land from exploitive industries

It is late autumn in southern Chile, and in the region of Araucanía, the leaves have turned copper and gold. But on the road to the mist-shrouded town of Lumaco, the hills are covered with rows of charred pines.

“We burned these forests as an act of legitimate resistance against the extractive industries that have oppressed the Mapuche people,” says Hector Llaitul. “If we make their business unprofitable they move on, allowing us to recover our devastated lands and rebuild our world.”

This year has already turned out to have been a particularly combustible one in a decade of rising attacks by indigenous Mapuche activists against the Chilean state and big business. Over several few days in April, crops were burned, roads were blocked and 16 forestry vehicles were set ablaze outside of the regional capital, Temuco.

Such actions have become more and more common. According to statistics published by a local business association, there were 43 attacks in the region in 2017, mainly arson attacks against logging firms.

“Anyone who hasn’t been in the Chilean forest doesn’t know this planet,” wrote Pablo Neruda, who grew up in the region – and whose verse was inspired by its wild landscapes, and the indomitable spirit of its native people who were only conquered after Chilean military campaigns in the late 19th century.

Today, however, much of the west of the region would be unrecognizable to Chile’s finest poet. In the last 50 years, monoculture pine and eucalyptus plantations have replaced the biodiversity of the original forests.

Meanwhile, Mapuche groups have become increasingly aggressive in their efforts to reclaim ancestral lands and gain political autonomy. Llaitul is a spokesman for the Coordinadora Arauco-Malleco (CAM), an anti-capitalist organization that uses direct action and sabotage tactics.

The group has also demanded the release of the shaman Celestino Cordova, who was convicted in February 2014 for an arson attack on a farmhouse north of Temuco that resulted in the deaths of an elderly couple, Werner Luchsinger and Vivianne Mackay.

Hector Llaitul, an indigenous activist. Photograph: Mat Youkee for the Guardian

Cordova began a hunger strike in January after officials denied his request to complete a religious ceremony outside of the prison. He temporarily suspended the strike in April to negotiate.

“The government practices and respects Catholicism but it discriminates against Mapuche spiritual beliefs,” he said from a hospital bed, guarded by police officers. “The Mapuche have been impoverished spiritually, culturally and economically by Chile. I’m willing to sacrifice my life for my people.”

But Cordova’s conviction in the high-profile Luchsinger-Mackay case has made it tougher to win public sympathy for his cause, said Nicolas Rojas Pedemonte, a professor at Alberto Hurtado University in Santiago and author of a new book on the Mapuche conflict.

“That case was an inflection point for the conflict,” he said. “It was the first fatal attack, it turned Chilean media against the Mapuche and was used by the state as a Trojan horse for a repressive response.”

Police presence has since been heavily increased in Araucanía leading to the militarization of the region and increasingly indiscriminate targeting of indigenous people, according to Rojas.

In January 2017, charges against several Mapuche – including Llaitul – were dropped after it was revealed that police had used manipulated WhatsApp messages as evidence in arson cases. “I don’t even use WhatsApp,” says Llaitul, brandishing a tiny Nokia.

The Luchsinger-Mackay case was also the first sign of a split in Mapuche activist ranks. A new more radical group – know as the Weichan Auka Mapu (the Struggle of the Rebel Territory, WAM) – emerged, adopting an explicitly anti-Chilean stance and the tactic of burning churches – most recently during the Pope’s January visit to the region.

Llaitul says the CAM rejects the targeting of individuals and that direct action against forestry projects is the first stage towards reclaiming the land for Mapuche settlements.

On a former timber reserve overlooking Lumaco, his vision is being put into action. The logging firm, Arauco, abandoned the project following repeated arson attacks and today, in a small clearing, a dozen young men and women are hammering timbers together on the construction of a house in the woods.

A Mapuche red, blue and green flag flaps from the apex.

The destructive results of a forest fire started by Mapuche radical groups. Photograph: Rodrigo Abd/AP

“When we recover lands we plant crops, breed animals and reconstruct our cultural world,” says Llaitul. “We will build houses but our first priority is a spiritual centre, the rewe.”

The rightwing government of the current president, Sebastián Piñera, has a different vistion for the future of Araucanía, the region with the worst poverty and unemployment rates in the country.

Ministers visited Temuco in April to finalize plans for a major growth plan for the region, focusing on tourism, agriculture and energy investments and training programs to allow the 150,000 hectares of land turned over to Mapuche groups in recent years to return to production.

The plan, to be launched in August, is also expected to increase the purchase of private lands by the national indigenous development agency.

“People in Araucanía are calling out for peace and development. Over the years so much investment has been turned away due to security fears,” says Luis Mayol, the Santiago-appointed administrator of Araucanía. “Piñera won 63% of the vote in this region – the Mapuche people want growth like everyone else. However, there is a small number of terrorists with radical ideologies and the resources to generate fear.”

While the development plan aims to win the support of Araucanías indigenous groups, accompanying amendments to the anti-terrorism law aim to make it easier to convict arsonists under terrorism charges.

“Our current legislation is quite useless: too many violent acts are being processed as regular crimes,” says Mayol. “We need to bring our definition of terrorism in line with those of countries such as the UK and Spain. For me, the systematic burning of trucks and churches are terrorist acts.”

Back at the reclaimed timber plantation, Llaitul remains defiant as two young Mapuche lift roof rafters into place on the new construction. “When there was no Mapuche struggle, the government did nothing for us” he says. “We’re not asking for palliative measures or integration, we want territory and autonomy for the Mapuche nation.”

This article originally appeared in The Guardian

[SOURCE]