Date: March 21, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, D.C. -- Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he will be traveling to Easter Island during the Congressional recess to assess recent developments between the legitimate representatives of the Rapa Nui clans and the Chilean government. Easter Island, or its Polynesian name of Rapa Nui, is one of the world’s most isolated inhabited islands.
“Conflict between the Rapa Nui natives and the Chilean government has existed since 1888 when Chile signed a disputed treaty with the Rapa Nui people,” Faleomavaega said. “At that time, Chile took control of the island and confined the Rapa Nui people to a small area of land, approximately one square mile.”
“In 1933, Chile leased the remaining land to private sheep-herding enterprises and took ownership of all untitled lands. In 1966, Chile passed a law which authorized the President to grant land titles to the Rapa Nui people and prohibited the transfer of lands to non-indigenous individuals. However, land was illegally privatized and sold to mainland Chileans during the Pinochet Dictatorship.”
“Today non-indigenous individuals and corporations possess most of the land, and the Chilean government continues to favor private companies interested in exploiting the Rapa Nui culture for private gain instead of restoring the land to the Rapa Nui people. Within the past five months, Chilean armed forces have been carrying out forced evictions of Rapa Nui natives.”
“In a letter dated February 3, 2011, U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka and I wrote to the President of the Republic of Chile, His Excellency Sebastian Pinera, expressing our deepest concerns about the current situation unfolding in Easter Island and, in response to that letter, I have since met with Ambassador Arturo Fermandois of the Republic of Chile and he has assured me that he is committed to a productive exchange of views and welcomes my visit to Rapa Nui,” the Congressman said.
“I will be traveling to Rapa Nui in my capacity as the Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific and also as a Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. Prior to my arrival in Rapa Nui, the Government of Chile will be arranging a series of meetings for me in Santiago with Minister of Foreign Affairs Alfredo Moreno, Minister of Planification Felipe Kast, Undersecretary for Regional Development Miguel Flores, and Special Advisor for Indian Affairs (SEGPRES) Sebastian Donoso. While in Easter Island, the Rapa Nui Parliament is arranging meetings with Governor Carmen Cardinali, Mayor Luz Sasso, the Municipal Council, the Elders Council, the MakenuRe’o Rapa Nui women’s organization, the Development Commission and other interested parties.”
“I am pleased by these developments and, once more, I thank Ambassador Arturo Fermandois for making this visit possible and arranging this itinerary. I also thank the Rapa Nui Parliament for its assistance. It is my sincere hope that President Obama will support the indigenous rights of the Rapa Nui people during his planned visit to Chile this week since the United States should be a leader in promoting democracy and human rights. I also hope that the government of Chile will be responsive and allow for the people of Rapa Nui to live in peace on their land,” Faleomavaega concluded.