Ecoceanos News - A milestone has been reached on the long road to justice for tens of thousands of Chilean small scale fishers and millions of citizens. Their right to pursue their traditional livelihoods and their right to food sovereignty were cynically disregarded by corrupt officials and politicians in the pay of Chilean fishing corporations, according to Ecoceaonos News.
On Monday 3 October, the Public Prosecutor formally charged Corpesca S.A., one of the largest fishing corporations in Chile and owned by the Angelini family, with bribery. Corpesca is alleged to have paid out 350,000 US dollars (arpound 230 million pesos) in bribes to 2 politicians in order to secure their control over marine resources. Another dozen politicians are under investigation for fraud.
Organizations of small scale fishers and citizens’ groups have been calling for the annulment of the Fisheries Law passed in 2012, which they refer to as the Angelini-Longueira fisheries law after the architect and promoter of the bill, the former Economy Minister Pablo Longueira. In 2011, following a closed-doors “negotiating round-table” with fishing sector representatives, the two main organizations representing small scale fishers in Chile, CONAPACH and CONFEPACH, had agreed to back the bill in exchange for increased allocations of fishing quotas. One of the most immediate impacts of this irregular process was the division of CONAPACH and the formation of a new organization – the National Council for the Defence of the Fishing Heritage (CONDEP) – representing around 30,000 fishers.
To-day CONDEP and other groups have united with citizens groups to form the Association for Defence of the Seas and the People’s Rights, which is calling for the imprisonment of the corrupt politicians, the company directors and the former Economy Minister. Their call is supported by 300,000 signatures, and they have organized massive rallies in eight coastal regions of the country.
“This unprecedented step must also have consequences for the 16 giant fishing companies currently under investigation, including Sonapesca, Asiponor, Asipes and Fipes”, say the Association. A nationwide demonstration is planned form26 October to call for the annulment of the Law.
Juan Carlos Cardenas of the Ecoceanos Centro has denounced as fraudulent the review of the law being undertaken by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), due to be published in October. According to him, this review, sponsored by the President’s Administration (La Moneda) and the Fisheries Sub Secretariat, is designed to introduce some superficial modifications without addressing the key issue: the handing over free of charge and in perpetuity access and user rights to Chilean fishery resources to 7 family clans which control both fisheries and salmon farming in Chile.