In what seems a challenge to the Chilean government which declared a state of emergency in a region to the south of the country, a group of indigenous Mapuche demanding autonomy invaded a farm and set on fire heavy equipment and several vehicles.
According to a police report, Tuesday evening six hooded individuals carrying weapons took over the Santa Lidia farm in the Araucaria region, intimidated farmhands and committed the arson attack.
That same Tuesday Chilean president Sebastián Piñera declared a state of emergency and militarized four provinces from the La Araucaria and Bio Bio regions which have been suffering increasing attacks from the original Mapuche tribes that inhabit the area and are demanding the return of their lands.
The Territorial Resistance Organ, ORT from the Arauco Malleco Coordinator, CAM, said the actions were in reply to government's offensive and accused the Piñera administration of sending troops to the area to attack the Mapuche autonomous movement, and is doing this is acting in defence of big business, forestry companies and settlers
Piñera on announcing the 15-day Exceptional State of Emergency decree said it was intended because of the serious and repeated violent attacks linked to narcotics gangs, terrorism and organized crime.
In the four provinces of the two regions, there have been repeated clashes of Mapuche activists with the Carabineros, police, and violence that had led to deaths on both sides. Trucks are also a target of attacks particularly if they are transporting logs since Mapuches argue they are devastating their original forests.
Furthermore, on Sunday a human rights activist was killed during a protest march of indigenous groups in downtown Santiago. The cause of the death is still under investigation, protestors blame a tear gas canister and Carabineros, fireworks fired against them by the protestors which have become common practice.
The emergency decree was well-drafted, arguing that it was not geared against any people or groups of peaceful citizens, but rather to protect those peaceful citizens who live in fear of attacks and other violent actions.
Police report that violent incidents with the participation of security forces have increased 94% in the first six months of 2021.
The Mapuches the main indigenous group in Chile and with their cousins in Argentine Patagonia, sometimes also on the warpath, are claiming the lands they have lived off for centuries and now are under the control of great farming and forestry groups. Treaties signed with the Spaniards and later Chilean governments, have not been honoured, claim the Mapuches.
Although the regions have been militarized, the forces will collaborate and in no way replace Police and Security forces; they are not allowed to act autonomously or directly in police operations. The military will give logistic, technologic, communications, vigilance and patrolling support in the areas declared under a state of emergency.
The measures requested by conservative sectors of government were criticized by the opposition, human rights groups and indigenous movements accusing the administration of wanting to further complicate the conflict.