Growing unrest in Chile's Araucanía region, where the aboriginal communities mainly Mapuches are demanding the government honours treaties dating back to the Spanish conquest and later when Chile emerged as an independent country.
This time rebellious Mapuche communities protested on Sunday at the local airport of Temuco, lighting tyres and wood at the end of one of the main airstrips causing billows of smoke and forcing flights to be cancelled for several hours because of low visibility.
Passengers at the terminal were stranded and a group who had already boarded an aircraft had to return to the waiting lounge until the protests ended.
Local authorities condemned the incident and anticipated actions to impede the repeat of such protests. We had to regret the suspension of air traffic at the La Araucania Freire airport because neighboring communities lit fires and the intense smoke that concentrated in the site impeded the take off of flights
Victor Manoli, presidential delegate in La Araucania region said that once the incident started, I contacted Carabineros who rushed to the place and with their own vehicles and equipment turned out the fire and made protestors pull back
We can now inform that air traffic has been reestablished as the head of the Civil Aviation Directory announced. We will proceed with all the necessary legal actions to identify and condemn all those violent people involved in terrorist provocations, added Manoli.
Apparently the motive of the protests is because certain mapuche communities are demanding a reply from the Indigenous Development Corporation regarding the pending purchase of land and the alleged lack of interest from local authorities
Land disputes in the region are common, with violent elements of the Mapuche communities setting transport trucks on fire as well as wrecking forestry equipment, plus shootouts with the Carabineros with deaths to be regretted on both sides.
In effect on Monday Chilean law enforcement officers from Lumaco, in La Araucania reported that a group of people entered a private farm and set on fire deforestation heavy equipment. Our criminal expertise team in working at the place, looking for evidence and talking to witnesses who might give an idea of how events evolved and catch the culprits.
However it's not an easy task since the Mapuche communities are fearful of Carabineros excesses, and rarely potential witnesses supply evidence of events.