Chile apologizes to tribe for historic 'horrors'


Santiago (AFP)

Chile's President Michelle Bachelet apologized on behalf of the nation Friday to the Mapuche indigenous tribe for the "horrors" of post-colonial abuse they suffered.

Considered the earliest inhabitants of parts of Chile, the Mapuche fought against the Spanish conquerors and later the Chilean army after the country's independence in the 19th century.

Their numbers were reduced to only 700,000, a fraction of Chile's current population of 17 million.

"We have failed as a country," the socialist president, who is due to leave office in seven months, said in a speech.

"I therefore wish to apologize to the Mapuche people for the mistakes and horrors that have been committed or tolerated in our relations with them and their communities."

Her speech marked the launch of a development scheme for impoverished Mapuche communities in the southern Araucania region.

Mapuche in Araucania are campaigning to recover territory they say was confiscated from them.

Bachelet said a ministerial committee would review indigenous land rights in the region.

"It is clear that from the time when our republic was formed, the Mapuche people's identity, culture, territory and livelihood were not protected as they should have been," Bachelet said.

"Over more than a century and a half of national history, these people were treated as though they were invisible and their communities were disrespected and discriminated against."

Mapuche land rights campaigners have also been jailed under a terrorism law dating to Chile's 1973-1990 dictatorship.