Chile promoted the colonization of this border area in the early last century by encouraging inward migration and entrusting the Sociedad Industrial Aysen the task of promoting the breeding and exploitation of timber. Until then, this vast territory was inhabited by indigenous Theuelce that were quickly exterminated. In order to built spaces for pastures, thousands of hectares of primary forest were burned in a fire that raged for almost a decade, until the late ’40s. The burned logs can still be seen on the edge of Carrettera Austral, the only road that connects the distant and remote villages of the south.
Villa O’Higgins, Caleta Tortel, Cochrane, Puerto Guadal, Murta, Chile Cico, Cerro Castillo, small villages which are less than 50 years old and counting from 500 to 3000 people, heirs of the pioneers of the last century arrived from all over the country searching for land and a little luck. One square kilometer for each of the 110 000 inhabitants of the region. Within this complicated social and environmental context that the company HidroAysèn designed to build five dams on the Pascua and Baker rivers, the most important rivers of Chilean Patagonia, to produce 2750 MW of electricity. HidroAysèn belongs to 51 percent in Endesa Chile and 49 percent to Colbún.
The process is open also to non-Mapuche reality, such as FAP – Frente Ambientalista de Panguipulli, who share with the community, plus the right to self-determination of the Mapuche people, including concerns about the interference of foreign companies in the area. In more than 50 years, The Mapuche have never received any compensation, although have lost more than 300 hectares of land. The tangible effects produced by this dam in the territory of small size (51 MW of installed power) are concerned about the inhabitants of the region for what might happen if the hydroelectric project on Lake Neltume will be concluded.Resistance is well organized and some communities, such as Inalafquen, Lake Neltume, have explicitly stated their opposition to the presence of companies on their territory.
The comparison between the members of the community of Inalafquen and the representatives of the nearby Maipo Callu Liquin is clear and explicit: the Mapuche do not want to trade. Just in the Valerian community, an Endesa helicopter was driven out by force from the inhabitants, who refused to come to terms with the representatives of the company.
The acquisition of Endesa by ENEL concluded early last year, is the apex of a complex corporate structure and is in fact a key player in the project. For this reason, in Italy, some organizations have created the campaign “Patagonia without dams” (www.patagoniasenzadighe.org) and from 24 October to 6 November, sent a delegation to Patagonia to meet the communities involved and the civil society organizations who are against this plan and struggle to make the region a reservoir of life.