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In Argentina's Patagonia, the provincial administration and the Mapuche community are at odds over the Lanín Volcano

Last week, a disagreement emerged between Argentina's National Parks Administration and the Governor of Neuquén province in the country's west. The Lanín Volcano, a 4,000-meter-high volcano on the Pacific Rim of Fire, is at the center of the conflict.

Indeed, on August 3, the National Parks Administration, which is part of Argentina's Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, named the Lanín Volcano a Mapuche sacred site. The Mapuche are indigenous people who lived in both Chilean and Argentine Patagonia long before the creation of these two nations. The indigenous population has reacted positively to this move. For a long time, the Mapuche have sought acknowledgment of their claim to land ownership.

Nonetheless, the Governor of the Argentine province of Neuquén, where the volcano is located, had a different opinion. Omar Gutiérrez immediately accused the National Parks Administration of attempting to centralize power, and of interfering in provincial issues to limit its competencies and powers. He called the proclamation "illegitimate and illegal" because he was not told or consulted. He vowed to file legal action.
According to Gutiérrez, the Lanín Volcano is an important part of the Neuquén province's identity. It belongs to all of its people precisely for this reason. Furthermore, there would be no compelling reasons to declare the volcano a Mapuche sacred site: the State Attorney of Neuquén Province confirmed that there are no historical motives or studies to support this conclusion.

Furthermore, mountain guides stated that if the place was designated sacred, future access would be difficult. Mount Lanín has traditionally been considered a free-access place, with both national and international visitors able to climb it without paying any fees. Otherwise, like with other sites in the vicinity, a fee to enter the mountain may be imposed.

Under the weight of the controversy, the National Parks Administration decided two days later to withdraw its previous announcement. The administration stated that it will pursue a participatory discussion with all parties involved, promoting respectful relations between the province and the indigenous community. Nonetheless, the dispute is still far from over.

The Neuquén Mapuche Confederation described the first identification of Lanín Volcano as a sacred site as a "historical event." It is now tainted as a result of the step back. The significant and uncontrolled flow of tourists, according to the Mapuche, is hazardous to the place. They emphasized  in particular the garbage scattered in the environment.

The Confederation said that their rights had been denied once more. The surrounding environment is being overexploited, and the instrumentalization of this case will unleash a fresh wave of hatred at this ancestral group. As a result, they are "on alert and mobilization.”. Will the participatory dialogue promoted by the National Parks Administration be able to reach a compromise and solve the dispute?

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