Argentina. The historic trial against Mapuche leaders has begun

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By Nilo Cayuqueo / Source: La Retaguardia / The Dawn / October 27, 2015

Three members of the Winkul Newent Community are accused of throwing rocks and physically hurting a Justice Officer, Verónica Pelayes, in 2012. It’s the first time that a Mapuche woman is accused of a felony, in this case, hurting the Officer. Prosecutor has asked for 15 years in jail.


Territorial Conflict because of Oil Greed and the Criminalization faced by a Mapuche Community in Neuquen, Argentina

Source: / The Dawn


The community has been resisting the advance of oil companies, beginning with Pioneer, then Apache and today Yacimientos del Sur


The ancestral Winkul Newen community is located in the Portezuelo Chico site, at the center of the Province of Neuquén, Argentina. Their ancestral territory is, today, the North Portezuelo oil field, 10 wells Oil and Gas Company Apache, now called southern oilfields.

The community has been resisting the advance of oil companies, beginning with Pioneer, then Apache and today Yacimientos del Sur.

Within the community territory, companies had planned to install 40 oil wells, of which only 10 could be materialized, thanks of the tireless struggle of the community, which for over a decade has been facing the different companies who have settled on its territory.

Due to the actions of resistance they carried out, the community has suffered countless evictions, visual inspections in the middle of the night, and constant militarization of cultural spaces and grazing areas for their animals. One of the recent evictions was only stopped when the women of the community sprayed themselves with fuel and threatened to set themselves on fire. Following this, the following evictions were carried out with the presence of an ambulance and firefighters from the city of Zapala, located 50 km from the community..


The North Field Portezuelo is not operational since 2012, because of the various actions that the community has made. It has inspection reports from the Subsecretary of Environment and of the Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Energy of the Province, dated December 9, 2011 and October 16, 2012 and which demand sanitation. Up to this day, cultural sanitation, which is one of the requests of the community, has not been met. Previously, there have been oil spills, gas leaks, falling of animals into open pools of crude oil, but government officials never showed up, so many of these contaminated sites are not under any kind of environmental treatment.



This situation worsened on December 28, 2012, when, in the middle of an Eluwvn —Mapuche funeral— a new eviction order was released by Judge Ivonne San Martin of the Court of Zapala.

It was about three in the afternoon when the community saw a significant deployment of bulldozers and trucks of the Apache Company, that were just meters away from the fence the community had placed in order to prevent this kind of unwanted visits.

The community decided to resist the eviction order, defending themselves with stones when the bailiff ordered the bulldozer to enter the territory.


This sharpened the political and judicial persecution against the traditional authorities of the community, initiating a court case for alleged crimes, including aggravated attempted homicide for Relmu Ñanku and the offense of aggravated damage for Martín Maliqueo and Mauricio Raín, which implies a deepening of the process of criminalization of protest and political persecution to the Winkul Newen community, in a context in which they were defending their territory and other Human Rights.

Relmu Ñamku

We denounce the complicity of Public Prosecution Ministry in ensuring the operation of the Oil Companies, something that has been clearly reflected in:


  1. a) The legal classification of the cases, which does not reflect the circumstances surrounding the facts alleged. It is also necessary to point out that there has been a change of “titles” from serious injuries to attempted aggravated murder, despite no new elements were incorporated on the record to justify this change.
  2. b) The lack of an interpreter appointed by the Mapuche Confederation at the hearing in which the charges have been stated.This reflects a clear breach of a resolution of the own High Court of Neuquén. In addition, we note that the appointed interpreter was an employee of the Apache Multinational, the same company that has carried on business that have damaged the Community for years.
  3. c) The partiality of the legal criteria that is used in resolving situations related to the Mapuche People as the community, months before the events, denounced a beating by a gang sent by the Apache Company, in which community members were heavily wounded, including Petrona Maliqueo Pillan Kuse, philosophical and spiritual authority, who was severely beaten on his head and face. Violeta Velazquez, who was pregnant at that time, was beaten on his tummy and face and Maximiliano Morales, a minor, was wounded by a bullet in his leg.


Finally we have a deep concern for the sanction in our country of the Anti-Terrorist Law, which amends the Criminal Code creating an imbalance in the proportion of sentences. Particularly serious is the doubling of penalties for any offense that intended to create terror among the population or compel a government to take or refrain from taking a certain decision. The breadth and imprecision of this characterization opens the doors to its application to criminal figures typically used to criminalize social protest and collective advocacy. As was noted in the description of this case, where the State’s response to the territorial defense and indigenous claims in our country is the prosecution of their members, the effect of this law is very worrying for indigenous communities in defense of their rights.


There is a clear example in Chile, where the implementation of a similar law has allowed the prosecution of indigenous leaders of our own people, many currently serving sentences with effective jail time.


Contact of the Mapuche Winkul Newen community

Relmu Ñamku, community Werken (leader)

phone: 0299-5323840

e-mail: [email protected]



The trial will last all week and end on Thursday November 5th in the Zapala Court, date in which the jury will give its verdict.

The unprecedented nature of this trial resides in that, for the first time, this will be an intercultural trial, since half of the 12 jurors are Mapuche.

Another aspect that makes this trial very special, is that it comes in the middle of a growing  extractivist process in the exploitation of the so-called natural resources by the national and the local government.


Political analysts, human rights organizations and environmentalists believe that this is a political trial: what the government is trying to do with a docile justice, is to discipline and teach a lesson to the representatives of local communities, to other communities that came from other parts of the country and to numerous environmental and human rights organizations that have gathered to support Relmu, Martin and Mauricio.




Martín Maliqueo questioned the selection of judges because, even though the jurors were drawn from 30 Mapuche people, in practice it was Court who decided who should be elected juries, and the right of the organizations and communities to be consulted on the designation was not respected.

It is important to mention that Amnesty International will witness the trial, and has criticized the government and justice for their criminalization of the protest of those who have been historically oppressed.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, filed a request to the court to act as Amicus Curiae, but it was rejected.

Next week, many prestigious lawyers will also testify in favor of Relmu, such as Silvina Ramirez and the anthropologist Diana Lenton.

Mari Chiweu!

Open letter from the daughter of Relmu Ñamku

Open Letter from Ayben Kimvn Velázquez Kimvn Maliqueo, daughter of Relmu Ñamku

Mapuche community – Winkul Newen

Paraje Portezuelo Chico Dpto. Confluencia.

October, 2015


To society in general, I come to tell our family history, because the jury trial will begin on October 26, 2015, and will be held in the city of Zapala. For defending our defend tañi walmapu meu- our territory from oil companies, tañiñuke,  my mother, Relmu Ñamku is being accused of attempted murder and tañi chachay, My father Martin Velázquez Maliqueo, and next to a lamgen – a brother, called Mauricio Rain, from another neighboring community, are being accused of damage serious.


This trial is very unfair because these charges that were applied and that will begin to be judged, are nothing compare at all to the violence that my family has been through for generations with family losses.


1) the case of the unpunished death of John Maliqueo, my great grandfather, in hands of police in Ramon Castro, was never clarified.

2) the death of my grandfather Martin Velazquez, who died of a lung infection in the Portezuelo Chico Place, year 2008.

3) Eviction to my dad, signed by Judge Eduardo Badano, in 2010 claiming to be the owner of the land where my great grandfather was born.

4) the death of my aunt Cristina Lincopan after a pulmonary hypertension at age 30, she was lonko -authority of a closed community on the site of Barda Negra Anticline- in 2013.

5) The brutal beating by a gang, to my grandmother Petrona Maliqueo, my Aunt Violeta Velasquez, and to my cousin Maximiliano Morales, who was also shot, and was 16 years, in March 2012.

6) the death of my cousin Petrona Beatriz Cayhueque, who died a few hours after she was born, because he was born with malformations on December 27, 2012, produced by contamination in the area.


This issues, are also violence and I wonder where was the justice at that time? … Investigating each of these facts to clarify them and prosecute each of those responsible.

Another fact that I do not want to ignore, is that of my younger brother, Niwa Nawel, who suffered a serious accident in my house, he suffered from burns Grade A and B, because we live in an impoverished area, in  a territory, which is rich in both in oil and gas, exploited by the company APACHE in 2009.


This  judgment, full of impunity, that seeks a conviction for my nuke by Mrs. Veronica Pelayes and rural society lawyer Julian Alvares, has a single purpose, to collect a millionaire trial of more than 7 million pesos, from the government and the oil company.


All this interest and greed does not justify all our sadness and helplessness of knowing that my brothers and I can be without the presence of our mom in my ruka- house.

For all this I demand the government and its justice, stop this  injustice and discrimination to my family, communities and our people Mapuche nation.


We want a Fair Justice.

Marici weu Marici weu


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