Harassment against Mapuche communities continues
Conflict rages after the death of two landowners at the hands of strangers.
The dead of a couple who owned land in the southern town of Vilcún, 680 kilometers (425 miles) south of Santiago, on Jan. 4, due to a fire started by a group of hooded men, has once again placed the Mapuche community on the government’s radar.
The authorities did not hesitate to accuse Mapuche activists for the attack in which 75-year old Werner Luchsinger and his 69-year old wife Vivian Mackay lost their lives. The police detained brothers Celestino and José Córdoba Tránsito as suspects responsible for the act. The attack coincided with the fifth anniversary of the assassination of the young Mapuche Matías Catrileo, who was shot on the back by a police officer during an indigenous Mapuche invasion of a plot of land owned by the Luchsinger family.
The Minister of the Interior Andrés Chadwick affirmed that flyers mentioning Catrileo were found at the scene. “We will search for [the responsible parties], and we will not stop until we find them,” said Chadwick as he announced that the controversial 1984 Antiterrorist Law will be used against the detained.
The Arauco Malleco Coordinator, or CAM, the main Mapuche organization, denied having any link to the attack and accused government authorities of “demonizing the Mapuche community as a whole and delegitimizing the claiming [of its rights].”
Mapuche leaders and analysts have agreed in pointing out that, while indigenous demands are criminalized, police officers responsible for the deaths of Mapuche activists have not been punished. Aside from Catrileo, Alex Lemun and Jaime Mendoza Collío have lost their lives. Lemun died in 2002 from a shot to the head in an attempt to reclaim lands in the Araucania region, and Mendoza Collío received a shot to the back in 2009 in a similar situation.
The responsible individual for Catrileo’s death, Corporal Walter Ramírez, continues to work. The same goes for Major Marco Treurer, who shot Lemun, and Corporal Patricio Jara, who caused the death of Mendoza Collío. These police agents were acquitted in martial courts.
In an open letter written to President Sebastián Piñera, the lonko (traditional authority) Juana Calfunao, who in 2006 was tried under the Antiterrorist Law for defiance of authority and was jailed for four years, gave her condolences to the Luchsinger family and demanded that the president end the harassment against the Mapuche communities.
“My community, my family and I personally have suffered numerous attacks of this nature; unknown agents burnt my house three times; in one of these fires we found the calcified remains of my uncle Basilio Coñonao. However, when we Mapuche are affected and [we face] the injustice of having been subject to this type of violence, we have to lament the insensibility of the authorities and the indolence of the media. In these cases, as in my case, there are no visits from the Chilean president, from his ministers or parliament members, nor is martial law imposed or is the Antiterrorist Law used against the perpetrators.”
“All of that makes me think that the police is not serving society, and for us Mapuche [there is] no guarantee of security or protection as there should be in a [nation with rule of law] and under a democratic regime,” pointed out Calfunao in her letter. —Latinamerica Press.