While that commenter didn't take me up on my offer, Joshua did put in the work and wrote the following. Thank you Joshua!
The history of astronomy in Chile is in part tied into neo-colonialism, and the problematic character of that can be seen in certain ways in which foreign countries, international and transnational corporations, and wealthy astronomy departments in the West have taken advantage of the preferential treatments they have received from various Chilean governments. Observatories in Chile are all basically foreign-owned and operated, though Chile is a consortium member of CTIO. Connections between the academic astronomy departments in Chile and between their foreign counterparts seem to be growing, but it is important that the astronomy community acknowledge the unbalanced history that comes with this story.
|Flag of the Mapuche, via Wiki Commons|
The issues with indigenous rights in Chile have a long and sordid history stretching back to the invasion of the Spanish in the sixteenth century and arguably coming to a head with the Chilean Occupation of Araucanía in 1860 where the independent Mapuche people were invaded and had their lands forcibly integrated into Chile. The Mapuche people today comprise 85% of the indigenous people of Chile and the struggle for indigenous rights has resulted in a decades-long conflict known as the Mapuche conflict. This conflict is largely happening south of Santiago and is, as far as I can tell, mostly (but not completely) removed from the northern part of the country where the observatories are. Of course, borderland arguments are false consciousness colonial fantasies, but there does not appear to be any direct connection between the Mapuche conflict and the observatories. This does not mean that such concerns don't exist in the same way that the concerns of certain Kanaka Maoli over the TMT were not recognized by many in the community until recently, but there has not been a lot of work done to answer this question.
|Image from the excellent film, Nostalgia for the Light, about the grim geographical connections between astronomical observatories and the gravesites some of the disappeared from Pinochet’s rule. Reproduced from the New York Times|
One thing that should be acknowledged is the problematic relationship the observatories had with the military junta that took over Chile in 1973. For the most part, this coup d'etat was considered a matter of "local politics" by many of the foreign observatories who tried to make no political waves in order to keep their special statuses. It is undeniable that Pinochet used the same geographies as where the observatories are located to help cover-up his crimes against humanity. Nevertheless, being neutral in the face of evil is itself a banal form of evil (c.f. Eichmann in Jerusalem).
Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics
Vol. 39: 1-18 (Volume publication date September 2001)
Mapuche International Link