News Release

Chile Sends in Army Against Indigenous Group


The Summit of the Americas is taking place this week in Los Angeles. Buenos Aires Times reports: “Chile redeploys Army to restive southern region amid Mapuche tensions.” Telesur reports: “Chile: Lower House Declares Mapuche Organizations as Terrorists.”

CAROLE CONCHA BELL, Concha Bell is an Anglo-Chilean writer and PhD student at King’s College London. She is a specialist on the Mapuche conflict and socio-political conflict in Latin America.

She just wrote the piece “Chile’s Identity Crisis: Mapuche Still Under Fire” for North American Congress on Latin America. She writes: “Days after Chile released the draft of the new constitution set to replace the one drafted in the dictatorship-era, President Gabriel Boric’s government declared a state of emergency in the so-called conflict zone in Araucanía. Indigenous Mapuche communities that have long resisted the dominance of extractivist multinational forestry companies in the region have increasingly laid claim to ancestral land, including with demands for autonomy. …

While Chile’s new president ran on promises to deal fairly with the indigenous group, Bell notes: “Yet, as Mapuche lawyer, human rights activist, and Constitutional Convention member Natividad Llanquilleo Pilquiman tweeted: ‘President Boric, like [ex-president Sebastián] Piñera, has sent the military against the Mapuche.’ …

“Following the announcement, human rights groups confused by Boric’s U-turn have demanded a coherent explanation. Various Mapuche media outlets echoed Llanquilleo’s dismay, with independent media outlet Werkén calling the measure a ‘failure’ of the Boric government. The move begs key questions. Is this a new era of the pacification of Araucanía?

“The Mapuche are right to fear further military presence. A week into the Boric presidency, Rubén Collio, a prolific Mapuche environmental campaigner, was killed in a suspicious car accident on a remote highway. He was the husband of Macarena Valdés, an activist who led a campaign against Austrian company RP Global’s hydropower dam on the Tranguil River in southern Chile. After complaining of harassment by employees in an RP Global vehicle, Valdés was found dead in the family home by her adolescent son in 2017. Most recently, on May 5, a Mapuche activist taking part in a land reclamation action in Casa Piedra, Tirua was killed by a spray of bullets shot from the window of an unmarked car.”