With just about two weeks to go before the highly-polarized presidential elections between radical candidates from the left and the right, a group claiming to be fighting for the rights of the Mapuche indigenous peoples Friday committed yet another arson attack in the Biobio region in southern Chile. The fire affected a house and two sheds, it was reported.
The perpetrators stole a vehicle and destroyed three buildings in the Cañete commune in addition to cutting down trees to make access to the place difficult. A house and two storage sheds were burned down by a group claiming to defend the right of Mapuches to their ancestral land.
Four provinces in the Bío Bío and La Araucanía region are under a state of emergency declared by President Sebastián Piñera, which has allowed for the militarization of the area.
At 2 am Friday, a group of hooded individuals stormed the property, belonging to Enrique Ramírez Sáez, and set fire to a house and two work sheds located there. The attackers threatened the local residents with high-caliber guns and set the property on fire. The group later escaped in a stolen van after authorities were summoned to the area.
Presidential Delegate for Biobío Patricio Khun said the government would always condemn violence as a form of expression and hoped condemnation for those acts was to be transversal to all political parties.
Mapuche violence is a growing problem in the Chilean provinces of Arauco, Biobío, Malleco and Cautín and also in Argentine Patagonia, although not all Mapuches take this course of action. Others, such as the current Constitutional Assembly's Chairwoman Elisa Loncón, have taken more western paths, such as running in elections. Most Mapuche groups nevertheless seek recognition, land restitution and cultural reparation, and extremist groups yearn for the installation of a sovereign state throughout the entire territory of the “Wallmapu”, which includes the southern center of Chile and Argentina.
Leftwing presidential candidate Gabriel Boric has tuned in for years with the pretensions of the Mapuche political organizations, while his far-right opponent José Antonio Kast won by a landslide in La Araucanía, with 42.16% of the votes.