Categories Alert, Chile, Latin America

Alert: Support for Daniel Caniullán Huentel and the defenders who are being threatened in Chile’s coastal and marine spaces

We share this alert about the increasing threats against defenders of coastal and marine spaces in Chile and express our solidarity with Daniel Caniullán Huentel, who is continuously facing intimidation. He's a lonko (leader) of the Pu Wapi Indigenous community of Melinka in Guaitecas (Aysén region)

Daniel Caniullán Huentel, lonko (líder) de la comunidad indígena Pu Wapi. Foto: Video: Cortesía Daniel Caniullán Huentel

First published on 02/14/2024, and last updated on 03/08/2024

By Chile ICCA Network, Latin America ICCA Network, and the ICCA Consortium


The Indigenous Mapuche Williche Pu Wapi community of Melinka, Guaitecas, situated in the Chilean region of Aysén, is facing a new surge of attacks and intimidation. In a recent and very concerning event, the home of Daniel Caniullán Huentel, the lonko (leader) of the community, was attacked. 

Read more: Ñizol Ngulam Ta Futxa Willimapu public statement in Spanish (PDF File)

Daniel Caniullán Huentel is a shellfish diver and leader of Asociación de Comunidades Territorio Williche-Chono (ICCA Consortium Member). He is also one of the petitioners for the application for the Cisnes Coastal and Marine Area of Indigenous People (ECMPO). He has denounced the harassment and threats he faces as a community leader.

Update on February 29, 2024: Letter from Lonko Daniel Caniullán Huentel (representative of the ECMPO Cisnes application) and Lonko Nelson Millatureo Rain (representative of the ECMPO Huichas application) regarding the rejection of the ECMPOs Cisnes and Huichas, by the Regional Commission for the Use of the Coastal Zone (CRUBC) of the Regional Government of Atacama, Chile (PDF file in Spanish).

The Mapuche Williche Indigenous People of the Aysén region, especially in the Guaitecas Archipelago, face threats from salmon aquaculture, overfishing, poverty, and inequity. For years, the Indigenous communities of the Guaitecas, which include many fisherfolk and shellfish divers, have advocated for their territories to be declared ECMPOs under Law 20.249. This designation aims to guarantee the governance and management of these biodiverse territories in Chile.

Yet, the ongoing process of recognizing the Cisnes ECMPO has become a target of disinformation campaigns promoted by business sectors. These campaigns aim to cause disagreement and tension between the artisanal fishing communities and Indigenous Peoples.

Daniel Caniullán Huentel claims that since December, they have been harassed through threatening audio in an attempt to make them give up their fight. He stated, “Today, Indigenous Peoples need to be respected as equals and to grow with equity and justice […]” Video: courtesy of Daniel Caniullán Huentel

In a recent public statement (PDF file), members of the regional ancestral organization Ñizol Ngulam Ta Futxa Willimapu (Council of Ancestral Authorities of the Southern Territory) voiced their concern about the “malicious and cowardly acts of intimidation targeting the ancestral Mapuche Williche communities of the Guaitecas archipelago, Aysén region, which currently affect the leaders of Islas Huichas and Melinka, particularly the Ñizol Longko Daniel Caniullan Guentel.”

Read more: Reportaje sobre la condena de los atentados y las muestras de apoyo de las organizaciones comunitarias (Article on the attacks and expressions of support from community organizations in Spanish)

Furthermore, they call to continue fighting: “We urge all our ancestral authorities, territorial leaders, and Mapuche, Williche, and Lafkenche organizations not to be intimidated by these acts. Instead, we call everyone to reject, denounce, and expose these actions and to uphold and strengthen this tough struggle to protect our Ñuke Mapu ka Ñuke Lafken (mother earth and mother sea)”.

Daniel Caniullán Huentel discusses his community’s commitment to their territory, emphasizing the importance of maintaining and protecting its rich diversity in a short film produced by Costa Humboldt, an ICCA Consortium Member. Video: Costa Humboldt

We, the Indigenous Peoples and local communities of the Latin American ICCA Network, raise this ALERT and express our full backing and support for Daniel Caniullán Huentel, lonko of the Pu Wapi Indigenous community of Guaitecas.

We denounce before the national and international community the violation of Indigenous Peoples’ rights and the intimidation faced by their leaders due to the dissemination of hate speech, racism, and the invasion of their living spaces.

We raise awareness of the ongoing harassment faced by Indigenous Peoples while defending their marine-coastal spaces. These areas are recognized and protected byLaw 20.249, a testament to the enduring struggle and perseverance of the Indigenous Peoples in Chile.

Daniel Caniullán Huentel at the “Second Meeting of Aysén Coastal Communities” in August 2022. Photo: Asociación de Comunidades Territorio Williche–Chono

Establishing the Coastal and Marine Areas of Indigenous Peoples (ECMPO) status in 2008 served as a mechanism to allocate coastal-marine spaces to a community or association of communities that have exercised customary use of that space. As per the law, the primary aim is to safeguard the uses of coastal and marine spaces, ensure the conservation of natural resources, and promote the well-being of the communities.

Therefore, we urge the Government of Chile:

  1. To protect Indigenous Peoples’ environmental defenders following its commitments under the Escazú Agreement, ensuring secure environments and the protection of their rights;
  2. To refrain from advancing the proposed bill aimed at amending Law 20.249. This legislation, born out of the struggle of Indigenous Peoples, established the Coastal and Marine Spaces of Indigenous Peoples (ECMPOs) and ensured the preservation of their customary use and
  3. To strongly defend life’s protection and prevent actors with political and business interests from implementing harassment policies. These policies sow fear and division within social organizations to benefit specific interests polluting Chile’s waters and coasts.

Every day, as Indigenous Peoples and local communities, we demonstrate that we have alternative ways of coexisting with the coastal-marine spaces based on respect, self-determination, and preserving our territories of life. 

About the Chile ICCA Network

The Chile ICCA Network comprises territories, communities, organizations, and individuals who embody the ICCA spirit in their principles. It aims to ensure the territorial and customary rights of Indigenous Peoples within the framework of conserving their territories from their perspective. 

About the Latin American ICCA Network

The Latin American ICCA Network (Territories and Areas Conserved by Indigenous Peoples and local communities) is an association comprising Indigenous organizations, local communities, civil society organizations, academics, and committed individuals who stand in solidarity with and support the struggle of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

About the ICCA Consortium

The ICCA Consortium is a global non-profit association supporting Indigenous Peoples and local communities governing and conserving their lands, waters, and territories. Its membership in more than 80 countries is undertaking collective actions at the local, national, regional, and international levels across several thematic streams, including documenting, sustaining, and defending territories of life and youth and intergenerational relations.