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Long and narrow, Chile clings to the western edge of South America's South­ern Cone. Hugging - page 36 / 46





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472                         Politics of Latin America

traction are CONAMA's principal focus. Meanwhile, all of the ten line min­istries with environmental functions have retained their jurisdictions and implement resolutions taken in the interministerial meetings of CONAMA. CONAMA's consultative council incorporates civil society and business in the policy process.

The Comprehensive Environmental Act turned mandatory environmen­tal impact reporting into the main instrument of environmental policy. The "polluter pays7' principle is the second major instrument to force compli­ance with environmental regulations. However, the requirement is weak be­cause the burden of proof rests with the prosecution. The act emphasizes gradualism. This means prioritizing problems and applying only small, in­cremental changes to deal with the most urgent ones.

Overall, CONAMA and the Comprehensive Environmental Act are weak institutional and legislative instruments to tackle Chile's formidable envi­ronmental problems, which include high levels of pollution in urban and rural areas and rapid rates of extraction of natural resources, such as fish­eries. CONAMA does not have the mandate, political backing, or staff to ef­fectively tackle environmental problems. The Comprehensive Law reinforces this condition. Why? Because political leaders are fearful that more vigor­ous environmental action may hamper economic growth. Thus, Con­certacion administrations bow to pressure from conservative political forces. Still, CONAMA represents official recognition of the issue and is an advance over previous conditions.

In addition to gender and environmental issues, the Concertacion also ad­dressed the plight of its indigenous peoples. The Mapuches had gained some ground under Allende's socialist government, helping to formulate legisla­tion that promoted multiethnicity. His government also used agrarian re­form to secure title for land rights. But the military government reacted vi­olently against indigenous people. It broke up Mapuche organizations by subjecting its leadership to death, imprisonment, and exile and sought to obliterate Mapuche identity and communities in 1978 by destroying in­digenous property rights through the conversion of communal land to pri­vate land ownership based on areas traditionally farmed by individual fam­ilies (hijuelas). In the end, the military government's strategy did not work, for legally the hijuelas did not become alienable property—could not be sold—for twenty years after the date of the decree that established them. The Concertacion acted quickly to reverse the situation with the most vig­orous action occurring between 1989 and 1993. In 1989, while Patricio Ayl-win was still a candidate for the presidency, the Concertacion signed an agreement with the indigenous peoples of Chile. In it, the Concertacion committed itself to the promulgation of a new law that would recognize an­cestral culture and rights. AlywuVs government partially delivered on this promise by passing a new Indian Law in 1993. The law recognized ances­tral lands. It protected them by making them inalienable and established a fund to buy back lands that had been usurped by Chileans since the begin­ning of the century, when the reservations originally had been established. The law also promoted multiethnicity, legally recognized Indian communi-

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