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Activist killed during shootout on November 14 leads to violent demonstrations in Santiago, S. Chile

Reports indicate that on November 14 at least 200 security agents were deployed to the Temucuicui Mapuche settlement, near the city of Ercilla, in the Malleco Province. The operation was launched after a few individuals purportedly belonging to the Mapuche community stole three cars in Ercilla earlier that day. While official sources indicate that a group of Temucuicui residents attempted to prevent the detention of suspects by shooting at security agents with automatic rifles, activists from the Mapuche community stated that police initiated the shootout. The clash resulted in the death of Mapuche leader Camilo Catrillanca, noted for participating in previous violent demonstrations. Subsequently, on November 15, violent demonstrations took place in Concepción and Santiago, where thousands scuffled with security services. In Santiago activists mounted barricades, looted businesses, and burned several vehicles. Security services evicted demonstrators forcefully. On November 15 President Sebastián Piñera announced that he would lunch an official investigation over Catrillanca’s death. On November 16 instances of violence were recorded in southern Chile.

The security operation leading to the death of the Mapuche leader was likely triggered by suspicions concerning potential militant activity in the Temucuicui settlement. This explains the large scope of the security operation to detain the individuals who stole the cars, who were probably correctly singled out as radical activist. Noteworthily, unlike the majority of the Mapuche community, the settlement in question opposed a government proposal addressing economic assistance and better political representation for the indigenous community. Notwithstanding the government’s intention to investigate Catrillanca’s death, violent demonstrations in Concepción and Santiago underscore indigenous groups and left-leaning elements of society are most likely to blame security forces for the incident. The event comes against the backdrop of surging Mapuche militant action in southern parts of the country disrupting industrial activities. Bearing in mind grievances triggered by the Catrillanca incident, the government’s intention to heighten security in the region could potentially lead to a new wave of attacks and violent demonstrations.

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