Activist Dies in Reservoir She Battled Against

Chile's Nicolesa Quintreman likely fell in and drowned, say prosecutor, sister
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 26, 2013 9:51 AM CST
Activist Dies in Reservoir She Battled Against
In this Feb. 10, 2013 file photo, Mapuche Indians gather for a spiritual ceremony in Ercilla, Chile.   (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd, File)

A Mapuche Indian leader who became the face of Chile's environmental movement has been found floating in a reservoir she spent a decade trying to prevent from being created. Authorities say they're awaiting autopsy results, though the death appears accidental. While there's no official cause of death yet for Nicolesa Quintreman, a 73-year-old who was nearly blind, a prosecutor says that "she apparently slipped, fell into the lake, and died," noting there were "no signs of injury attributable to third persons" on her body. Her sister is backing that notion. "I'm going to tell it like it is. My sister fell into the lake, she won't ever come back," she said.

Quintreman was found Tuesday, a day after she went missing. With her sister, Berta, Quintreman became a national figure in Chile during protests against the construction of a hydroelectric dam on tribal land. They led a public fight against the European power company Endesa at a time when Chile's environmental enforcement was lax and its indigenous protection law wasn't closely followed. And though they eventually failed, apparently, the fight isn't over. "This company should leave, and pull everything out. I want to emphasize this point—things have to keep progressing because my sister was a tireless fighter, and now my sister has left me all alone," Berta Quintreman said. (Read more Chile stories.)

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