CHILE BOUND TO RECLAIM DISPUTED RAPA NUI

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PROPERTY
Protestors to be evicted before 2011

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (RNZI, Dec. 6, 2010) - The Chilean provincial official responsible for Rapa Nui – also known as Easter Island - says he wants all protestors evicted from disputed properties by the end of the year.

This follows the latest clash over ancestral lands between indigenous islanders and police reinforcements sent from Chile.

Chile’s La Tercera newspaper reports Valparaiso Mayor Raul Celis wants a peaceful retreat from all the properties occupied in the on going dispute. But Rapa Nui activist Santi Hitorangi says about one hundred people are still occupying six properties in the Chilean territory and he says they’re preparing for the worst. He says his legs are riddled with wounds from Friday’s clash when authorities fired rubber bullets and native Rapa Nui threw rocks in response.

Mr. Hitorangi says the head of the so-called Rapa Nui parliament was shot in the back and many others were injured. He says there’s a huge sense of uncertainty and the island is operating under virtual martial law. But tourism operator Conny Martin says many Rapa Nui just want a peaceful solution to the troubles and they’re calling for calm dialogue. A Chilean human rights activist and senator have spent the weekend investigating the latest clash.

[PIR editor’s note: At the time unclaimed by any foreign country, Chile annexed Rapa Nui in 1888. The indigenous peoples of Rapa Nui currently make up less than half of the population of 5,000. They reportedly feel "squeezed out" of their land by tourism interests and fear the Chile government plans to use their ancestral lands for economic purposes that would profit outside companies. However, Chile’s Interior Minister adds "we've put forth a plan to invest US$250 million in Easter Island - 20 times more than what was invested in the last 20 years".]

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