Conflicts & War

Chile’s Mapuches respond to state of emergency with protest

By Sebastian Silva and Javier Martin

Temuco, Chile, May 18 (EFE).- Scores of Mapuche indigenous people marked the start of a new state of emergency in Chile’s troubled south by gathering Wednesday outside the penitentiary here to demand better treatment for the comrades behind bars they describe as “political prisoners.”

Efe saw military units taking up positions on major highways in the “greater south” hours after center-left President Gabriel Boric resorted to the imposition of measures of the kind that he denounced when they were used by rightist predecessor Sebastian Piñera.

Despite the emergency declaration, Coordinadora Arauco-Malleco (CAM), seen as the radical wing of the Mapuche resistance movement, went forward with the planned mobilization at the prison in Temuco.

Speakers included prominent figures from the CAM, which has claimed responsibility for attacks on the assets of the forestry companies and agri-business firms that now occupy much of the Mapuches’ ancestral territory.

But participants also heard from Alberto Curamil, a “lonko” (communal leader) who received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2019 for his successful campaign to block destructive hydroelectric projects in the region.

“We have come here as an organization to give support to Daniel Canio, a CAM political prisoner who is here kidnapped in prison by the Chilean state, and we give support to Luis Vasquez Tramolao, who is incarcerated at the prison in Angol,” CAM’s Rafael Pichun told Efe.

CAM’s demand, he said, is for “the liberty of all Mapuche political prisoners.”

The decision to reinstate the state of emergency was announced late Monday by Interior Minister Izkia Siches, who was greeted by Mapuche militants with shots fired into the air on her visit to the Araucania region two months ago.

The Mapuches, who number around 650,000, are the largest indigenous group in Chile, a nation of some 17 million people. They live mainly in Araucania and greater Santiago.

They are demanding constitutional recognition of their identity, rights and culture, as well as legal title to their traditional territory, largely snatched away in the late 19th-century during an “extermination” campaign in Araucania.

On Sunday, the CAM’s Hector Llaitul blasted the possibility of another emergency declaration as a “new provocation.”

“The soldier minions deployed again in Wallmapu (the Mapuche name for their ancestral lands) protecting the interests of great capital. It is the full expression of the military dictatorship that we Mapuches have always suffered, a dictatorship now assumed by the lackey government of Boric,” he said.

The Mapuche’s response must be “to prepare forces, to organize the armed resistance for autonomy,” Llaitul said.

Arson attacks on heavy machinery and private property occur almost daily amid a conflict that has claimed the lives of Mapuches, Chilean police and “settlers.”

While dozens of Mapuches have gone to prison on “terrorism” charges. EFE


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