Santiago, May 24 (EFE).- One of the five forestry workers shot Tuesday in southern Chile amid a flare-up in a long-standing land conflict involving indigenous Mapuche militants died of his wounds, doctors said.
The patient “died as a result of a serious wound in the head derived from the impact of a bullet,” the hospital in Temuco where the man was being treated said in a statement.
“My heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Juan Segundo Catril Neculqueo, a 66-year-old worker and father of four children. There is no justification for an expression of violence of this nature. We will get to the bottom of it,” Interior Minister Izkia Siches said.
The Carabineros, Chile’s militarized national police, said that Catril and four other laborers were ambushed by hooded assailants while traveling to a work site on a road between Capitan Pastene, a town in the Araucania region, and Tirua, located in neighboring Biobio.
Last week, President Gabriel Boric declared a “limited” state of emergency for 15 days in Araucania and parts of Biobio, an action that authorizes soldiers to protect roads and highways.
In comments made Tuesday before Catril’s death, Boric referred to the wounded man by name and said that his government would “not tolerate the imposition of violence as a method of resolving conflict in our country.”
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 and now in the hands of forestry companies.
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.”
Dozens of Mapuches, meanwhile, have gone to prison on “terrorism” charges, and some of them have carried out hunger strikes to protest their situation.
The center-left head of state had previously vowed not to deploy troops to the restive region and had criticized his predecessor, conservative Sebastian Piñera, for resorting to a military strategy.
The armed forces operation under Piñera began in October and lasted for around six months until being lifted by the new head of state, but it was unsuccessful in lowering tensions or tamping down the violence. EFE