Chile: local Mapuche leader murdered

Victor Manuel Mendoza Collío, the werken (spokesperson) for an indigenous Mapuche community in the southern Chilean region of Araucanía, was shot dead the night of Oct. 29 by two unidentified men. A friend of the family said the assailants came to Mendoza Collío's home in the Requem Pillán community in Ercilla commune, Malleco province, and "killed him at the doorway of his house and in front of his six-year-old little girl, with a shotgun." According to preliminary information the authorities gave to the media, the killing was the result of a dispute within the Mapuche community; community members themselves strongly denied the authorities' version.

The Requem Pillán community reportedly had problems with a nearby non-indigenous landowner, and a few days before the murder, community members had apparently occupied lands claimed by a forestry company in the Lolenco sector. Since the 1990s Mapuche activists have frequently used land occupations in a campaign to regain land they consider ancestral territory. Jaime Mendoza Collío, another local leader who some sources say is Victor Manuel Mendoza Collío's cousin, died five years earlier when Patricio Jara, an agent in the carabineros militarized police, shot him in the back during a land occupation that the Requem Pillán community was carrying out at the San Sebastián estate.

Some media suggest that the Oct. 29 murder could be linked to a right-wing paramilitary group. Leaflets calling for reprisals against "the terrorist Mapuche" appeared several weeks earlier in Cañete, in the region just north of Araucanía; the leaflets carried a symbol used by the fascist group Patria y Libertad ("Homeland and Liberty"). (Radio Bío Bío, Chile, Oct. 29; El Ciudadano, Chile, Oct. 30; Radio Universidad de Chile, Oct. 30)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, November 2.