The Guardian newspaper from the UK reports that prominent Rapanui families on Easter Island wish to renounce Chilean sovereignty and would rather be considered part of Oceania than to remain part of Chile.
Easter Island is a tiny island in the Pacific that was annexed by Santiago in 1888 and made a province of the Valparaiso region but is considered a special territory, not least because giant statues known as moais make it a Unesco world heritage site.
Leviante Araki, head of the Rapa Nui “parliament”, an advocacy group for Indigenous people who comprise half the 5,000 population, requested secession in a letter this week to the Pacific Island Forum and Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera. The separatists resent what they say is an uncontrolled influx of tourists and settlers and accuse the government of taking over ancestral land with state offices.
Protesters occupied several state-owned buildings and said their protests were sparked by Pinera’s appointment of a governor, Pedro Edmunds Paoa, who was suspected of plotting land deals. Paoa offered to resign and the president dispatched a team of troubleshooters to address locals’ concerns. Government officials played down the threat of secession.