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Violent activists burn heavy machinery in La Araucanía, Chile

On October 1, a group of arsonists burned several trucks and other heavy machinery in a estate belonging to a forestry company in the commune of Lautaro, located in the region of La Araucanía. According to reports, four hooded subjects arrived at the property, threatened personnel with firearms and proceeded to burn the vehicles and machinery. On their escape they met Security Services and initiated an exchange of fire. One of the attackers was wounded, detained, and finally condemned to preventive prison. Overall, reports indicate that more than 322 violent incidents have taken place across rural areas in the so-called macrozone (Los Ríos, Bio Bio and La Araucanía) in 2018.

Southern Chile continues to see land disputes between indigenous peoples, especially Mapuches, and private landowners, corporations, and agricultural and forestry companies. Indigenous groups consider private businesses are encroaching on their ancestral lands. The region of La Araucanía is the core of Chile’s considerable forestry and paper industry. Meanwhile, demographically-wise, 31% of the region is said to have Mapuche ancestry, representing the country’s highest concentration of indigenous inhabitants. Recent months have witnessed an uptick in attacks against private property carried out by individuals and groups claiming to represent the interests of the Mapuche community. These incidents have resulted in damages estimated at tens of millions of dollars. While several dozens of Mapuche social leaders have been prosecuted and successfully convicted, Mapuche violent activism or militancy is not likely to abate. Sources suggest that violent elements prioritize targets which purportedly refuse to pay extortions or “taxes” imposed by armed groups. The state is unlikely to successfully curtail these incidents, highlighting the corporate need for larger expenditures on private security and intelligence.

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