Some 200 carabineros militarized police violently removed about 60 Mapuche on July 23 from land the indigenous people had occupied hours earlier near their homes in the Temucuicui community in the southern Chilean region of Araucanía. The carabineros threw tear gas grenades and fired pellets from shotguns to disperse the occupiers, including children and old people. A number of Mapuche were injured, and 12 were arrested–five men, four women and three girls. The women and girls were taken in a police bus to the nearby city of Collipulli; they reported being humiliated and sexually harassed by at least two police agents.
The carabineros attacked members of the Temucuicui community again later in the day when a group of Mapuche gathered at the Collipulli hospital to wait for injured friends and relatives being treated there. The agents reportedly fired pellets at the group from close range, wounding Fernanda Marillán, 12; Fabián Llanca, 16; and one adult.
Community members claim the land they occupied—officially the property of the Seinz, Valenzuela and Urban families and Martin Ruff and the Bosques Arauco S.A. company—was ancestral territory taken illegally from the Mapuche, Chile’s largest indigenous group. Land disputes are the main source of conflict in the Mapuche regions and have led to police violence against the Temucuicui community in the past. (Adital, Brazil, July 24; Prensa Latina, July 25)
Photographs of Fernanda Marillán and Fabián Llanca’s wounds provoked outrage and protests after they began circulating on the internet. Some 30 members of the Mapuche Territorial Alliance protested outside the Santiago offices of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on July 26 while five others held a sit-in inside. The protesters were calling for the organization to sponsor a press conference to denounce the suffering of the underage victims. (Radio Bío Bío, Chile, July 26)
The government’s response was inconsistent. “[W]e’re not going to allow police action to go outside the framework of the law,” rightwing president Sebastián Piñera promised on July 25, “and we’re investigating this matter and we’re not going to allow it.” (PL, July 25) On July 27 Lorena Fries, the director of the government’s National Human Rights Institute (INDH), announced that the agency was seeking an injunction on behalf of a total of four Mapuche minors that she said had been injured. (La Tercera, Chile, July 27) But in Araucanía itself Regional Ministerial Secretary Mauricio Ojeda tried to shift the blame to the Mapuche, who he claimed were using minors as “human shields.” “First we have to analyze what the parents are doing with these children before we criticize the government,” he said on July 25. “We’re not the ones who bring the children to this type of situation, to expose them [to danger].” (Cooperativa, Chile, July 25)
The government had already planned a “Security Summit” on the situation in Araucanía, in response to a request from big landowners who want a state of siege declared in the region. The meeting—held on July 24 in La Moneda, the presidential palace in Santiago, with police officials, regional authorities and Attorney General Sabas Chahuán—concluded with a decision to send more police agents. (Adital, July 24; PL, July 25)
The carabineros carried out a new operation against the Temucuicui community on the afternoon of July 25 according to Radio Bío Bío. “Alert to the world,” indigenous spokespeople wrote in a message posted on Facebook. “Violent raid is taking place inside the ancestral Temucuicui community, hundreds of police have entered the community and houses of community members. The violence is unusual and criminal against women and children who remain inside their houses.” There appeared to be no reports of injuries or detentions, however. (PL, July 25)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 30