Chile: Mapuche community attacked

On Dec. 21, police agents from Chile’s militarized Carabineros Special Forces attacked the Mapuche community of Juan Paillalef in Cunco commune in the 9th region (Araucania). The attack came as community members were protesting a decision by the Ministry of Public Works to widen and pave a road through Mapuche land without following required legal procedures. Police used tear gas, clubs and firearms against community members and badly beat lonko (chief) Juana Rosa Calfunao Paillalef; some children were among those injured in the raid. Police also shot to death the horse on which Calfunao was riding.

On Dec. 22 residents of Juan Paillalef responded by blockading a stretch of the 60-year-old road which runs between Los Laureles and Colico, passing through a number of Mapuche communities. Residents say the increasing number of heavy trucks transporting timber along the road is a threat to their community.

On Dec. 23, some 200 Carabineros agents commanded by Cristian Alarcon, captain of the Padre Las Casas jail, attacked the Juan Paillalef community again with tear gas bombs and rubber bullets. The Carabineros destroyed a community residence and all the belongings there, scattered food supplies, broke electricity generators and water pumps, and confiscated all agricultural tools and cell phones from residents, leaving the community incommunicado. Agents also destroyed a community workshop which was being rebuilt after an arson attack last July.

Police arrested Juana Calfunao along with her sister Luisa Calfunao, who has four young children, including one she was breastfeeding. When released on Dec. 24, Juana Calfunao and Luisa Calfunao both showed bad injuries from being beaten by police. The community is asking supporters to send letters to Araucania governor Ricardo Patricio Celis Araya in Temuco (fax +56-4-520-8217) and Justice Minister Luis Bates in Santiago (fax +56-2-695-4558), with copies to presidential adviser Domingo Namuncura (fax +56-2-698-4656,

Juana Calfunao is a prominent Mapuche leader who toured Europe in October and November of 2005, speaking in defense of indigenous rights and human rights. She has been arbitrarily detained and tortured on previous occasions, and in May 2000 a beating by police in the Second Commissary of Temuco caused the death of her unborn child. Her home in Juan Paillalef has been burned down in arson attacks three times. (News from, Dec. 26)

On June 26, 2004, a fire at Juana Calfunao’s home caused the death of Basilio Conoenao, lonko of a neighboring community. Government investigators in that case have ignored key evidence–such as the discovery of two police tear gas bombs at the site–and have sought to pin the fire on community member Pascual Namoncura Callulao, against whom they have waged a campaign of harassment. (Comunidad Mapuche Juan Paillalef, July 4, 2005 via Equipo Nizkor, Dec. 26)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 1

See our last update on indigenous struggles in Chile.