Easter Island locals marching against Rapa Nui Parliament.

Roadblock conflict and Easter Island politics explained

By Marcus Edensky

Rapa Nui flag Easter Island
The Rapa Nui flag is often used by Rapa Nui Parliament members, but is not exclusive to them.

There is a great misconception regarding the 2015 roadblock conflict and the political situation of Easter Island.  Most people believe Rapa Nui people in general want independence from Chile, and that everyone are behind the 2015 roadblock conflict. The truth is a lot more complex than that.

Most Rapa Nui people and residents of this island don’t want independence from Chile. What is more sought for is to have more autonomy, being able to have local rules and laws. One of the first things to achieve would then surely be control of Chilean immigration. Most residents, including Chileans themselves, agree that this would be a necessary measure on this tiny island with such a fragile cultural and archaeological heritage as this one. As this island is part of Chile, Chileans can today move here without any restriction. Though without a Rapa Nui spouse they would have to rent a house, since only Rapa Nui people can own land here.

There is a political minority group called Rapa Nui Parliament with a couple of hundred active members. Their ultimate goal is to achieve independence from Chile. It’s the members of this movement that took control over big parts of Easter Island on the 26th of March with roadblocks. This initially happened as a reaction to the Chilean government postponing the processing of immigration control proposals, and continued as an action of general discontent against Chilean sovergnity and historical injustices to Rapa Nui in the past.

Many members of the community did not agree with the way things were done. It became a conflict not only between Rapa Nui Parliament and Chile, but also between Rapa Nui Parliament with supporters and the rest of the island community.

March against Rapa Nui Parliament with rainbow
Easter Island locals marching against Rapa Nui Parliament.
Police at Rano Kau, Orongo, Easter Island
Police is now patrolling Easter Island regularly.
Conaf announcement paper national park free of entry
Even though CONAF currently is back, no 60 USD entry fee is charged.

On the 15th of August, the conflict escalated when the Rapa Nui Parliament started to try and charge all tourists the 60 USD entry fee that was earlier charged by CONAF park administration. On the 29th of August, police cleared out members of the Rapa Nui Parliament from the archaeological sites and road blocks and imprisoned those who tried to charge an entry fee. Currently, no one is charging an entry fee at all and CONAF park rangers are back at their posts.

Official word is that CONAF only will be back temporarily, until local politicians and community members have a better idea of what to do with the archaeological sites, and who should be in charge of them. Up until now it has been CONAF (Corporación Nacional Forestal) which is a Chilean organization that manages forests, reforestation and fight fires in national parks. They don’t have a single full-time archaeologist employed at their local office here, at an island where literally everything is about archaeology. Most agree that they are not the ones best fit to be in charge of the archaeology, but instead having their responsibility limited to forests.

On the 25th of October there will be a consultation to let the community present proposals and discuss which direction to go in the future. Even though one ideologically may not agree with the Rapa Nui Parliament, this surely wouldn’t have happened without them.


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