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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CONAF park ranger at Orongo, Easter Island

CONAF and police take back Easter Island

By Marcus Edensky

See all posts on the 2015 roadblock conflict.

Police at Rano Kau, Orongo, Easter Island
Police is patrolling Easter Island regularly.

Police force has now cleared roads and archaeological sites and from Rapa Nui Parliament members. It is no longer necessary to pay the 60 USD entrance fee to move around freely at Easter Island. The money that tourists paid to the Rapa Nui Parliament for entering the archaeological sites since the 16th of August was kept by a local businessman and hotel owner, who earlier on had been giving monetary support to the movement. He and his daughter were detained in the airport when trying to leave Easter Island with the money with a total sum of approximately 50 million pesos. They are now detained for 180 days while being investigated for fraud. The possibility of returning the money to tourists that have been paid to the Rapa Nui Parliament is part of the investigation.

Conaf announcement paper national park free of entry
CONAF announces that the Rapa Nui national park is free of entry until further notice.

Leviante Araki, president of Rapa Nui Parliament, was yesterday also detained when at the Hua Reva (south coast) road block preventing CONAF park rangers from passing.

In protest against detention of the Rapa Nui Parliament members, as well as to continue the fight against Chilean sovereignty, people from the same group have taken control over the labor port Hanga Piko, preventing unload of any cargo coming from the sea. Unloading the cargo is now slower, since it is done in the central harbor instead.

Official word is that CONAF will be maintaining the national park only temporarily, at least until new proposals will be presented on the 25th of October about who will take over the archaeological sites.

With police interveining, it now seems the 2015 roadblock conflict is going towards an end. What are your thoughts? Have the latest events been for the better, or for the worse? Please comment below!

Hanga Piko harbor protest by Rapa Nui Parliament
Members of Rapa Nui Parliament has stopped cargo unload to protest against detention of their members and Chilean sovereignty.

 

Empty road block Vaitea.
Rapa Nui Parliament road blocks are now empty.

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Police at Rapa Nui Parliament road blocks

Police controlling Rapa Nui Parliament road blocks

By Marcus Edensky

See all posts on the 2015 roadblock conflict.

For the first time since the Rapa Nui Parliament conflict started over four months ago, police has intervened. This was a consequence of the political minority group trying to start charging entrance fees to archaeological sites of Easter Island. Yesterday, leaders of the Rapa Nui Parliament Leviante Araki and Mario Tuki were detained when preventing tourists to enter the ancient ceremonial village Orongo for not having paid for the ticket. Tuki and Araki were today released.

Rapa Nui Parliament headquarters where entrance tickets are sold.
Rapa Nui Parliament headquarters where entrance tickets are sold.
Official statement of local government representation announcing detention of Rapa Nui Parliament leaders Leviante Araki and Mario Tuki.
Official statement of local government representation announcing detention of Rapa Nui Parliament leaders Leviante Araki and Mario Tuki.

A few days earlier, the community had learned about the intentions of the Rapa Nui Parliament to charge an entrance fee. Easter Island governor Marta Hotus then announced on the radio that no illegal entrance fee charge would be accepted, and if it would come to happen, legal actions would be taken. We now see the result of this, as police constantly patrols the roads and archaeological sites to prevent the Rapa Nui Parliament from stopping tourists that haven’t paid them.

Mario Tuki, one of the leaders of Rapa Nui Parliament, explains:
– The entrance fee is for two things. First, it’s for taking care of our ancestral treasures. Secondly, it’s to steer the rule of the island into the right direction.

A cruise ship arriving the day after Rapa Nui Parliament starts to charge entrance fees is only a coincidence, according to Mario Tuki.
A cruise ship arriving the day after Rapa Nui Parliament starts to charge entrance fees is only a coincidence, according to Mario Tuki.

The day after the Rapa Nui Parliament started charging, a big cruise ship with two thousand passengers arrived. Mario Tuki says that it’s a coincidence. The agency attending the official cruise ship tours made an agreement with the Rapa Nui Parliament, listing their passengers with promise of paying later. Because of this, Mario Tuki was happy and saw the recent events as a victory and the start of something new.

Entrance ticket to archaeological sites of Easter Island by Rapa Nui Parliament.
Entrance ticket to archaeological sites of Easter Island by Rapa Nui Parliament.

Cruise ship passengers going with local agencies instead of the official cruise ship tours were not paying the entrance fees of 60 USD per person. Members of the Rapa Nui Parliament were worried when the police didn’t let them deny access to the archaeological sites, but Mario Tuki tells his fellow members to remain calm.
– Don’t get angry with the tourists. They are the ones who get us food on the table. If we get angry with them, they won’t want to come back. The important thing is that this has started.

Mario Tuki talking to members of Rapa Nui Parliament.
Mario Tuki talking to fellow Rapa Nui Parliament members about the importance of remaining calm.

According to police chief Major Andrés Arena, the police forces have been able to fulfill their duties without any problems.

What’s your opinion of the current events? Are they for the better, or for the worse? Please comment below!

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la-moneda-chile-government

Easter Island governor: “The Rapa Nui Parliament is not fighting for immigration laws”

By Marcus Edensky

It has been almost a month since the Rapa Nui Parliament took over the Rapa Nui National Park on March 26th. Three weeks later, the roads were opened for free transit again. Two main questions have as a result been thoroughly discussed in local Easter Island politics – who should control the national park with its ancient moai statues, and how can a control of immigrating Chileans be achieved. Easter Island governor Marta Hotus lets us know that this Sunday, on the 26th of April, several key Easter Island representatives will go to Chile’s capital Santiago to discuss things further with the Chilean government.

CONAF must come back to control the park

“CONAF has to come back to take care of the island.”, the governor says. “They should go back to their posts and charge the entry fee to the tourists. They don’t, to not start fighting with the Rapa Nui Parliament again, and perhaps it’s better until we have discussed things in Santiago next week to not make the process even longer.”

Marta Hotus, governor of Easter Island.
Marta Hotus, governor of Easter Island.

On the 4th of May a presentation of how Easter Island’s archaeological sites should be controlled will be presented locally.

“I tell the Rapa Nui Parliament not to fight CONAF – join them. Cut the grass, or do other things to help out. The way they did things is not the right way. It’s better to remain calm.”

Rano Raraku moai statues
Rapa Nui has many archaeological sites with moai statues, well-known throughout the world.

Laws controlling Chilean immigration is in process

“There are some Rapa Nui that don’t want the immigration law. Some in the local chamber of tourism think about the extra hassle and costs that would involve bringing over Chileans to work here. They should see past that – this is for the greater good of the whole island. We have a small island with a fragile culture, which needs extra care.”

Tapati Rapa Nui festival parade, man rowing
Easter Island has a fragile culture that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.

Marta Hotus explains that even if Rapa Nui Parliament taking over the island might have speeded up things slightly, the work on the immigration laws was already in the process before any of this happened.

“One day, the Rapa Nui Parliament suddenly takes over the park, and now everyone believe they are the only ones making this happen. The Rapa Nui Parliament is not fighting for immigration laws. Truth is, what they really are fighting for is independence from Chile.

Rapa Nui Parliament sitting by road blocks with fire
Members of the Rapa Nui Parliament by one of the road blocks a couple of weeks ago.

Governor Marta Hotus explains that they have planned the process of achieving a control of immigrating Chileans in three steps:

  1. Consultation to the Rapa Nui people: What do the Rapa Nui people really want? What ideas do they have?
  2. Final document: A legal proposition that properly represents the opinions and thoughts of the Rapa Nui people.
  3. Presentation to the Chilean government: The legal proposal is presented to the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate of Chile.
Senate of Chile
The matters of Easter Island will be brought up in the Chilean senate.

“Next week we will see what news our visit to Chile’s government brings.” the governor says. “In the end, the immigration law must go through. We will fight using all native people’s protection laws we have at our disposal.”

By Marcus Edensky

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Rapa Nui Parliament road block open for tourists

Easter Island roads open for tourists again – is this a revolution?

By Marcus Edensky

See all posts on the 2015 roadblock conflict.

Since Friday, on the 3rd of April, most of the road blocks at Easter Island, put up by Rapa Nui Parliament on the 26th of March, have been removed. There are only a few road blocks left, and those that remain are only stopping foreign and Chilean guides who don’t have any family connection to the island through marriage etc. Guides who have knowledge in a different language than English and Spanish are also in some cases let through, as there is a demand for this on the island. This means that all tourists that rent a vehicle on their own can move around freely on the island. These changes happened after a meeting between Rapa Nui Parliament, the local chamber of tourism and other participants. Things now focus more on what really started this movement – the desire to limit immigration.

Easter Island map of Rapa Nui Parliament roadblocks
There are currently three main road blocks by the Rapa Nui Parliament – by Rano Kau volcano, Vai Tea (center) and Hua Reva (south coast).

Erity Teave, vice president of Rapa Nui Parliament explains:
–  Our goal is to have the areas open as much as possible, to serve the tourists well. Right now, we try to have the road blocks open from 07:00 (1 hour before sunrise) until 18:00. In some cases we have not been able to open until 09:00 in the morning, since we don’t have enough people to help out. If we would have had more people to volunteer, it would have been easier.

President Leviante Araki and vice president Erity Teave of Rapa Nui Parliament.
President Leviante Araki and vice president Erity Teave of Rapa Nui Parliament.

The Rapa Nui Parliament are negotiating daily with the mayor, governor and CODEIPA (“Easter Island council of development”, a group of locally elected politicians) to solve the situation.

Guides can get a permission at the Rapa Nui Parliament office at main street Atamu Tekena which will guarantee access to all areas of the island with tourists while the park is open, from 07:00 until 18:00. If still stopped by any of the road blocks, guides are encouraged to report this to the Rapa Nui Parliament office.

Book for registering names when passing Rapa Nui Parliament roadblocks at Easter Island.
Guides, and tourists (if traveling without a guide) are asked to register names and countries of origin when passing the road blocks.

Leviante Araki, president of Rapa Nui Parliament says:
– This is Rapa Nui. We don’t fight with knives or with guns like in Chile. We fight only with words. This is the way things are dealt with here at Rapa Nui.

Orongo empty
No CONAF park rangers patroll the archaeological sites of Rapa Nui anymore.

 

Door to reception at Orongo site, where national park tickets earlier were checked, is closed.
Door to reception at Orongo site, where national park tickets earlier were checked, is closed.
The CONAF national park ticket office is closed.
The CONAF national park ticket office is closed. No ticket is currently needed to visit the national park.

Rapa Nui historian Cristian Moreno Pakarati analyses the situation:
– Creating special immigration laws to a certain territory within a country is nothing unique. There are many islands that have this. Even if we don’t realize it now, in a few years, this might be seen as a revolution in the future. We will be able to say “I was there when it all happened”. In 1964, Alfonso Rapu was the face of the last revolution, back when the Rapa Nui people had no rights. As a consequence, two years later in 1966, ley pascua (“easter law”) was formed, which gave us civil rights, and we were seen as Chilean citizens with rights to vote etc. I don’t know when we will see the consequences of this. Not tomorrow, not the next month , probably not during this year, but perhaps the next year, or the year after that.

Historian Cristian Moreno Pakarati.
Historian Cristian Moreno Pakarati.

 

By Marcus Edensky

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Easter Island roads open for tourists in company of guide with Rapa Nui connection

By Marcus Edensky

See all posts on the 2015 roadblock conflict.

The days during and around this past weekend have been eventful so say the least. The way Rapa Nui Parlament has acted has caused separation among the people of Rapa Nui, but union among those who don’t agree on their behavior. Some days, members of Rapa Nui Parlament have let through tourists that are with a Rapa Nui guide, or a guide with connection to Rapa Nui (married to a Rapa Nui person etc), and other days they have suddenly not let through a single tourist – with or without Rapa Nui guide.

March against Rapa Nui Parliament with rainbow
March against the way Rapa Nui Parliament has been acting. The signs say “Let there be discussion among the Rapa Nui people to resolve our local politics” and “Let the 36 families (referring to the 36 families left after the slavery, of whom all Rapa Nui today are decendant from) meet to straighten out that which concerns us all”.

 

Mayor of Easter Island, Petero Edmunds, in march against Rapa Nui Parliament
The mayor of Easter Island, Petero Edmunds, is being greeted and cheered on by those participating in the march.

 

Coincidentally, both the local mayor and governor were in Santiago when this happened. They returned yesterday (Monday), and are having daily meetings with the Rapa Nui Parlament, trying to come to an agreement. The outcome of today’s meeting is that members of Rapa Nui Parlament will be letting through tourists that are in company of Rapa Nui guides, or a guide with family connection to a Rapa Nui person (through marriage etc), between hours 07:00 and 18:00.

When the Rapa Nui Parliament at first took over the island last week, talk around town was that new law proposals to limit Chilean immigration to the island had been rejected. It has now been confirmed that the proposals were not actually rejected, put merely put on hold for a few days.

Riot police has been reported to have arrived to Easter Island. They have still not confronted with members of the Rapa Nui Parlament.

By Marcus Edensky

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Easter Island closed down by Rapa Nui Parliament

By Marcus Edensky

See all posts on the 2015 roadblock conflict.

A local minority group called Rapa Nui Parliament, whose main objective is to achieve Easter Island independency from Chile, has today taken control of Easter Island.

Easter Island map with closed off areas marked.
Easter Island map with closed off areas marked.

Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, was annexed to Chile in 1888, when the island was weak and demoralized because of slavery. Within the latest two decades, the island’s population had been decimated from at least 3000 to only a bit more than a hundred people. Today, the Rapa Nui population is back at what it was before the slavery.

Rapa Nui is known for it's 1000 gigantic moai statues, scattered all over the island.
Rapa Nui is known for it’s 1000 gigantic moai statues, scattered all over the island.

Leviante Araki, head of Rapa Nui Parliament, explains the situation:
– In the year 1888, the deal was for Chile to be in charge of the island for six years, under the lead of a Chilean called Enrique Merlet. Chile never left. We have had many years of lies. Today we take back our land.

Leviante Araki (center) with other members of Rapa Nui Parliament.

Araki says that they will hold their positions until the control of the island goes back to the hands of the Rapa Nui people.

– Two hours ago I had a call from the interior ministry of the Chilean government. They asked us to remove the road blocks. I told them that we wouldn’t.

tree-cut-down-blocking-road
Cut tree used as road block.

 

43% of the Rapa Nui surface is declared national park by the Chilean goverment, meaning that these areas are protected for their valuable archaeology. These areas are looked over by park rangers from national park administration CONAF. The members of the Rapa Nui Parliament simply asked these park rangers to leave their posts this morning, and they did. No violence has been used up until now, and those who block the roads use words only.

Permission for passing road blocks by Rapa Nui Parlament president to the author.
Permission for passing road blocks by Rapa Nui Parliament president to the author.

Limiting Chilean immigration to the island is a common topic in local Easter Island politics. The latest months, new legal proposals have been processed on governmental level. These proposals were yesterday rejected. It would be safe to say that these events are reactions to this rejection.

Similar events happened in 2010, when Rapa Nui people tried taking back land they claimed the Chilean state had taken from them. Camp grounds were set up at different institutions of Chilean representation. Those participating were not exclusively members of the Rapa Nui Parliament. After several weeks, an airplane of chilean riot policemen arrived and forced people away from the governmental areas with rubber bullet shotguns.

By Marcus Edensky

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