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  • Rapa Nui
  • Lorenz Gonschor (bio)

The main issue of local politics on Rapa Nui during the review period was the proposal for a special administrative statute for the island. The proposal, officially presented in August 2005, found both support and protest among Islanders. The debate on the island's political future was further boosted by Chile's new ­president, Michelle Bachelet, who expressed her strong support for the proposal. Meanwhile the numbers oftourists are growing exorbitantly, raising expectations of a wealthy future as well as fears about being overwhelmed by outsiders. At the same time, plans to build a casino on the island remain highly controversial.

The special administrative status proposal must be seen against the background of the current political status of the island, which, with its administrative complexity and multiplicity of local institutions, has become the object of criticism from various sides. According to the 1966 Ley Pascua (Easter Island Law), Rapa [End Page 240] Nui is part of the Valparaiso region on continental Chile, thus dependent not only on the national government in Santiago, but also on the regional administration in Valparaiso. On the local level, the island forms both a province, with a Santiago-appointed governor (since 1984 always an ethnic Rapanui) at its head, and a municipality, with a locally elected mayor and a six-member municipal council. Already these two local administration levels (provincial governor's office and municipal administration) are competing institutions with multiple overlapping responsibilities. The Ley Indígena (Indigenous Law) of 1993, which recognizes the Rapanui as one of Chile's six indigenous peoples, created yet another institution, the Comisión de Desarollo de la Isla de Pascua (CODEIPA, Easter Island Development Commission), composed of five elected ethnic Rapanui representatives, six representatives of Chilean government entities, as well as the governor, the mayor, and the president of the Rapanui Council of Elders. The latter council, an institution founded in the 1980s, supposedly to represent each Rapanui family and defend local culture and language, had become a matter of contention since it split in 1994 into a moderate, pro-Chilean faction under Alberto Hotus, and a more radical, later pro-independence faction under Juan Chavez, Mario Tuki, and others. While only the first faction is recognized by Chile as a "traditional institution" under the Indigenous Law, out of the second was formed, in 2001, the "Rapanui Parliament," which advocates full independence from Chile.

Besides these various official and unofficial bodies headed by Islanders, there are also offices of various central government agencies on the island, some of them also partly staffed with native Rapanui: the National Commission for Indigenous Development, the National Forestry Corporation, a state agriculture company, and many others. The multiplicity of government agencies and allegedly representative island institutions creates a ­network of competing bureaucracies with overlapping fields of responsibility, which constantly hinder and block each other, thereby significantly impeding any sort of development project on the island (Di Castri 2003).

In order to remedy the situation, a special statute of autonomy for Rapa Nui has been discussed since 2002, spearheaded primarily by Mayor Petero Edmunds (RNJ, Oct 2003). A commission had then been formed—consisting of various Chilean politicians including former President ­Patricio Aylwin, as well as Rapa Nui Governor Enrique Pakarati, Mayor Edmunds, and the president of the "official" council of elders, Alberto Hotus—with the task of reviewing the island's present statute and elaborating a proposal for a new one. Meanwhile, more radical pro-independence voices of the Rapanui Parliament and others had become more and more vocal (Qué Pasa, 17 Sept 2003; To'ere, 1 July 2004).

In late August 2005, the statute review commission presented its final draft of a "Proposal for a Special Administrative Statute for Easter Island" to Chilean President Ricardo Lagos (NRN, Aug 2005). Under that proposal, the island would be taken [End Page 241] out of the Valparaiso region and form a separate entity as a "special territory," directly under Santiago, the provincial governor's office, thus assuming the responsibilities of a regional administration as well. The municipality would assume the role ofthe local government with more responsibilities than at present...


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