Clashes between Chilean security forces and indigenous Mapuche turn deadly

Two members of Chile’s indigenous Mapuche community were killed and three others injured on Wednesday in clashes with security forces, the government said.

The clashes occurred in the southern province of Arauco, an area that has been under a state of emergency since last month amid an escalation of violence.

The incident occurred a day after President Sebastián Piñera said he had asked Congress to extend the state of emergency and the deployment of military forces in four provinces in the Biobío and La Araucanía regions, including Arauco.

“I can confirm two deaths so far and I can confirm three injured who have reached different hospitals,” Interior Minister Rodrigo Delgado said in the capital Santiago.

The minister said the deaths occurred during two attacks by hooded men near the town of Cañete, 640 kilometers (400 miles) south of Santiago.

The deceased, two members of the Mapuche community aged 23 and 44, died of gunshot wounds, health officials said. The Prosecutor’s Office reported the arrest of three people.

The state of emergency was adopted by Piñera on October 12, the date on which the arrival of the Spanish colonizers to America is commemorated and which has been torn apart by controversy.

Then, the president extended the militarization of these regions for 15 days, which have experienced a historical conflict between the Mapuche people – the largest indigenous community in Chile – and the state.

The indigenous people demand from the State the return of lands that they consider theirs by ancestral right and that have been handed over to private companies, mainly forestry companies and landowners.

The lack of a solution to the Mapuche demands has led radical groups to carry out attacks on trucks and private property during the last decade.

One person died and 17 were injured last month when clashes broke out in Santiago between security forces and protesters marching for Mapuche autonomy.

The clashes have also brought to light the presence of drug trafficking and self-defense groups, as well as police operations denounced as set-ups by indigenous people.


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