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Chile To Aid Indigenous Minority

August 6, 1999

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ President Eduardo Frei signed a landmark pact Thursday aimed at ending discrimination against Chile’s Indians, and then pledged $274 million to help raise their standard of living.

About 1,000 representatives of several Indian groups attended the signing of the anti-discrimination accord, which was the result of extensive negotiations between Chilean authorities and Indian representatives.

Frei said $274 million would be earmarked for programs to improve the health and living standards of indigenous communities, as well as to aid cultural programs. He also asked Congress to pass new laws to recognize Indian cultures and better integrate them into society.

The Mapuches Indians of southern Chile have demanded the government return what they say are their ancestral lands.

The Mapuches, who account for more than 10 percent of Chile’s 15 million people, once occupied vast territories in southern Chile that were wrested away or given to logging companies.

The dispute has escalated tensions and led to occasional violent confrontations between Indian groups and landowners or those working the lands.

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