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Chile reconsidering Easter Island tourism after court ruling

[JURIST] The Chilean government will begin a non-binding consultation process [El Mercurio report, in Spanish] on Tuesday to survey the indigenous inhabitants of Easter Island on tourism influx and immigration into the island. The consultation comes as the Chilean Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] ruled [press release, in Spanish] last week that a measure requiring all visitors to Easter Island to fill out Special Visitor's Cards (TEV's) with information about the length of and reason for their trip is unconstitutional. The high court reasoned that the TEV's, required for all visitors since September 15, infringed on Article 19 of the Chilean Constitution [text, PDF], which guarantees the right to personal freedom, including the right to move or remain in any place in the country, and ordered that the TEV's could only be requested on a voluntary [La Nacion report, in Spanish] basis. The results from Tuesday's consultation will be used in the Chilean Parliament to debate [Radio Universidad de Chile report, in Spanish] another proposed measure, one that would amend the constitution to enable local Easter Island authorities to exert more control over visitors and immigration to the island. To consult the Rapa Nui, Easter Island's indigenous residents, Subsecretary of the Interior Patricio Rosende announced that the Chilean government will develop [Terra report, in Spanish] workshops across the island, use media to engage residents, and will conduct a plebiscite-like vote on October 24.

Tuesday's consultation is part of a series of measures that the Chilean government has undertaken in response to recent demands and protests [La Nacion report, in Spanish] by Rapa Nui groups. They fear that tourism will ruin [Economist report] Easter Island's resources as the number of annual visitors continues to climb from 14,000 in mid-1990s to 70,000 last year. One of the islanders' organizations, then Rapa Nui Parliament, has staged protests [El Mercurio report, in Spanish] and has threatened to remove all non-indigenous residents from the island.

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