Salvador Allende reader


Missions and Tasks of Youth and Agrarian Reform

Speech in Santiago Plaza, December 21, 1970

Here Allende speaks to the nation's youth, peasantry and Mapuche people and other indigenous groups. Allende was the first president in Chilean history to take the needs of these groups seriously enough to initiate major reforms on their behalf. Allende uses this occasion to announce the nationalization of copper, the creation of peasant councils, and the start of a voluntary work campaign to be sparked by young people. He also explains the violence occurring in the countryside, urging peasants not to seize lands or "run for fences" (a method used by indigenous peoples to recover their stolen lands) but to wait for the implementation of the agrarian reform. He denounces those large estate owners who are behind the countryside's armed violence, saying that "steel should not be turned into weapons for Chileans to confront Chileans" but "into hoes, picks, hammers, into work tools."

Comrade members of Popular Unity, comrades and friends, national leaders of the peoples' parties, ministers, under secretaries, and officials of the popular government.

Accompanying me on this speakers platform, as a symbol of those gathered in this plaza, are three comrades who represent the youth, the peasants and the copper comrades.

As we repeatedly told you, the popular government will always keep the people informed of its actions and its significance in the life of Chile and each individual Chilean. We have called you here this afternoon so that you may understand the tremendous importance of this forthcoming action in which youth, peasants and copper workers play an important part. Youth could not be a spectator of this great economic and social transformation of Chile, youth had to be and is a most important part of this era in the national life. We need, we demand and ask for the creative energy of youth. Its revolutionary loyalty will be placed fully at the service of Chile and its people. That is why today we begin an act of profound solidarity and of great human significance. Chilean youth will go through the valleys, the countryside, the villages, the towns, carrying the message of redemption — the will, the popular government's creative and revolutionary decision, carrying this shining faith to tell the old man from whom he gets his experience that his centenary weariness will be replaced with the energy of youth to make Chile a different country, a community of all Chileans, independent economically and sovereign politically.

Youth must be the essential factor in the changes demanded by this uneven society in giving way to a new society, and youth's presence is equally or more necessary when in our country — we can proudly say that we are a young country — more than 60 percent of the population is younger than 30 years; that is, more than 4.6 million Chileans are younger than 30. In addition, it is also right to recognize that among those over 50 years old who belong to the popular parties, there is a consciousness of youth and also a youthful will, because the struggle of the people of Chile is not a struggle of generations. The presence of youth in voluntary work — in the democratic work of Popular Unity — pointing out that it understands the historic work in which we are engaged and youth, with its creative spirit, its moral force, will erect a dam against juvenile corruption, against those who waste time, against those who use drugs to escape a society that does not satisfy them and in which they feel alienated. Popular Unity youth should set an example in work, in studies, in loyalty to the people and in the heroic vocation to serve Chile above all.

As a governmental need, I will sign before you, on this fine afternoon, the decree that creates the General Secretariat of Youth. The decree reads as follows: Whereas the Executive has special interest in increasing the political participation of youth and its capability of action in the leadership of a new homeland, giving its most determined and efficient cooperation to the popular government plans, with this in mind: It is necessary to create a youth organization to cooperate with the government in the preparation of policies relative to the problems which concern the young and their participation in said plans, I hereby decree:

First Article: That there is now created the General Secretariat of Youth, dependent on the presidency of the republic, whose objective will be to cooperate in the preparation and execution of plans in policy relative to the young.

Second Article: The job of the Secretariat is to propose to the Executive concrete plans on organized youth participation in the initiation of voluntary work, teaching literacy, reforestation, housing construction, for example; dissemination and execution of government measures, dissemination of the Popular Unity program, and the increasing of political participation by the Chilean masses. The Secretariat will be especially concerned about specific youth problems, in areas regarding education, labor, health, nutrition, recreation or sports; coordination with state organizations, especially with the education under-secretariat, the state's sports administration, planning office, the culture department of the Education Ministry, tourism administration, Labor Ministry, National Scholarships and Educational Aid Board, and in general, with the ministers, under-secretariats and general directorates.

Along this line, there will be close coordination with the Family Ministry, for which a proposal will be sent to the National Congress prior to December 31. In addition, the Secretariat of Youth must suggest to the government the legal and administrative measures it deems adequate for the accomplishment of its respective program and plans; consult, coordinate and plan with the Chilean youth mass organizations, such as student federations, the trade union confederation, peasant youth organizations, municipal, slum, sports and cultural organizations.

Third Article: The General Secretariat of Youth will be composed of six representatives appointed by the president of the republic, on the basis of suggestions from the national leaders of the Popular Unity Youth Command. The members of the General Secretariat will not be paid. The General Secretariat of Youth can request of the public agencies all the background information, reports or services it considers appropriate for the best performance of its mission. These agencies must provide such information and services as quickly as possible.

Transitory Article: The General Secretariat of Youth will be attached to the presidency of the republic. In this way I wish to emphasize the importance I attach to this Secretariat and the presence of youth in the popular government and in our people's struggle.

I am going to sign the respective decree.

I have said, people of Santiago, that this afternoon I want to inform you of all the important initiatives which the government has resolved to make a reality, thus fulfilling the Popular Unity program and satisfying our consciences. I wish to emphasize, that on this occasion there is no thought of giving a recapitulation of the work done in the months and days we have been in government. I shall speak to the nation before the end of the year, over the state radio and television, and on a voluntary, non-compulsory network to tell what has been done in this period.

I wish now, in the same way, to point out the importance that the creation of the National Peasant Council holds for us.

We seek, as we have repeatedly stated, an economic development which will give wealth, which will promote the progress of the nation.

But we also seek an economic development which will bring a more just social system, which will give man greater freedom by guaranteeing him against life's risks, which will end his alienation — in other words, safeguard him against disease, unemployment, ignorance, lack of housing, ill-health, and provide recreation and rest.

To be able to achieve this imperative necessity, the people must understand that this task cannot be carried out by one man or a government alone: This is a task which can be carried out only on the basis of a great spirit of awareness on the part of the popular masses, of the irrevocable determination of a people to produce more, to try harder, and to sacrifice more, if necessary, for Chile and to improve the living conditions of people. But the people must also remember what I have said so many times: We are going to produce more, we are going to work more, we are going to try harder, but this will not be for the benefit of a minority, but rather for the benefit of the majority of Chileans, for the benefit of Chile and of the people.

And in regards to the agrarian reform, I want to clearly say to the people who are listening, that yesterday I was in the province of Cautin, where there is a very tense climate, artificially created in part.

There, I publicly said that it was not my intention to unearth the war axe, symbol of the Mapuches, and nor did I hypocritically exhibit a white and warm dove of peace either. I was taking the responsible word of a governor of the people, to tell the workers of the land, to tell the Mapuches that, while recognising the justice of their hopes and yearning for land, I demanded that they no longer participate in the seizing of land or "run for fences." With that, I added, they encouraged exploitation and the ill-conceived campaign to accuse this government of going too far, that the law is not respected and that there is anarchy in this country. I pointed out that in this government there is one who is responsible, that the President of the Republic supports their determination through his moral strength and through the influence he has among the popular masses.

I said at the same time that, while we were going to organize the National Peasant Council, while we were also going to deal with the Mapuche situation with decisiveness, speed and responsibility, I also pointed out that there were two types of landowners: those who have abided by the law, who have worked the land, who have respected those who have collaborated with them and who have respected the dignity of the peasant; while on the other hand, unfortunately, there is the other sector of landowners — I'm not referring to the labor union entities — who were linked to reactionary activities, to conspiracies, who acted in a sinister manner, even smuggling arms.

In relation to this matter, I want to be very precise with my words, since a newspaper asserts that arms have arrived from Argentina, without specifying facts. That type of landowner has smuggled arms. In the south of Chile, especially in the provinces of Cautin, Bío-Bío and Malleco, there are landowners who are armed, who have long range weapons and machine guns, which they have already used and have announced that they will keep using. I have said, categorically, that we don't want violence, that we are opposed to violence, that we don't want Chilean steel to be turned into weapons for Chileans against Chileans, that we want steel to be turned into hoes, picks, hammers, work tools. But I have maintained that if these landowners do not understand, it will be the government itself that will impose respect for the law and for the lives of the workers of the land. I have had talks with the unions, or rather, with the representatives of the managers' union of the National Society of Agriculture, and have told them that the memorandum they gave to the Minister of Agriculture will be replied to shortly. Out of the 20 questions that they have raised, we will not avoid answering any of them. I want all landowners to know what our attitude will be and what path we will take. Indisputably, the small and medium landowners, those that work the land well, will know that the Popular Government will go to their aid. But we will irrevocably carry out the agrarian reform as a social and economic necessity; we will even modify the current law, but certainly via legal channels. If we demand from the Mapuche, the indigenous, the worker of the land, respect for the law, we will relentlessly demand it of those who have a higher obligation to respect the law because of their cultural and educational level.

Meanwhile, I must point out that this government has not infringed the law. I bring this up because the Santiago newspapers have already made public a document emanating from the Christian Democrat parliamentarians from the province of Cautin. They should not forget that the expropriations in this province started in June of this year, and that there were more estates seized in the months of June and August than there were after the elections. Similarly, there was moving of fences in the same magnitude as there is now. I have wanted to remind these parliamentarians that this government has not transgressed the legal regulations. I want to remind the whole of Chile that it was a group of estate owners who were disrespectful towards President Frei's ministers in an act of the National Society of Agriculture. I want to remind you that it was the landowners who blocked the roads with their cars and wagons, to express their protest at the previous government's proposal to fix the price of wheat. I want to remind you that staff members of INDAP were run down, shot at and wounded in the province of Linares. I want to remind you that journalists were beaten and, last but not least, I want to remind you of the assassination of a government employee who had gone to carry out the law, who was even under police protection: I'm referring to engineer Mery.

It is not us who have impinged on the law, and in the cases where the seizing of estates has taken place, we have made the workers see reason. We know that some sections of land have been seized because their owners do not work them, they have abandoned them. In other cases, where the conflicts have been extraordinarily lengthy, it is undeniable that it was desperation which drove the agricultural workers to act in the way that is now well known. In these cases we have provided administrators. We have given them very clear instructions because we need those farms to keep producing in order to ensure that the people of Chile are better nourished and this is a responsible attitude on our part.

I want to tell the people of Chile what I learned yesterday in Cautin, while the Second Mapuche Congress took place: it should be known that in Chile there are 3,048 indigenous reservations, between Bio-Bio and Llanquihue, with 392,616 Mapuches, and the highest concentration being in Cautin with 189,000; in Malleco there are 89,000; in Valdivia 3,000; 5,000 in Arauco, etc. The basic activities of the Mapuches are agriculture and cattle breeding. However, many of them only feed on pine kernels, especially in the agricultural sectors of the coast of the Bio-Bio province.

I want to tell you that the race that heroically defended the initial stages of our history, have gradually lost their land and have been increasingly neglected. I want to point out that the law granting them certain privileges has a paternalistic tone and, therefore, the Mapuches cannot dictate their own conduct. They cannot alienate themselves from their land or lease it out. Their affairs have to be processed by the Indigenous Courts, which are few in numbers and, furthermore, function for a limited number of hours in the day. I want to point out that each Mapuche is entitled to about one-and-a-half or one-and-a-quarter hectares, and only 60 percent of this land is cultivable. And I want to say that the living conditions of these people are dramatically deplorable. I want to stress that there are 77,800 school-aged children and that there is a shortage of schools and teachers; above all, teachers who understand and comprehend Mapuche anthropology. I want to tell you that there are over 37,000 pre-school children in absolute abandonment and 27,000 children in breastfeeding ages without medical attention; many of whom have never drunk a glass of milk. I want to say that it is a national obligation, it is an imperative of our conscience, to not forget Chile's debt to the people of the Araucanian race, who are our ancestors. Therefore, the Popular Government will confront this situation with responsibility. It will raise the material and spiritual levels of the Araucanian, of our Mapuches; it will legislate with a different sense; it will give them lands and dignify their existence, as an urgent necessity of their human presence in the life of the people of Chile.

That's why, yesterday I said to the Mapuches that the youth were meeting today, here in Santiago, to initiate their voluntary work. I ask more than that, I urge the young students in their fifth and sixth year of medicine, the students in their last year of dentistry, I ask young doctors and dentists to go with haste, with affection, with humane tenderness to work for one or two months there in the communities; so that they can relate to the dramatic reality of the Mapuche people; that they take with them, along with technology, an encouraging word in their remedies and diagnosis. Let the teachers and student-teachers also go. On our part, we will mobilize INDAP, CORA and all the organizations necessary to change the life and the work of the Mapuche. This is a commitment of honor and I know that the youth that are listening to me will consider my request and my mandate, a mandate that emanates from the pain and the hope of the Araucanians in the south of Chile.

Edición digital del Centro Documental Blest el 07feb02
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