Jaime Mendoza Collío, a 24-year-old Mapuche activist, was shot by the police while taking part in an occupation of land claimed as indigenous territory Aug. 12 at Angol in the southern Chilean region of Araucanía. His slaying marks the third indigenous activist killed since the restoration of democracy in 1990, when the Mapuche launched a strategy of land occupations aimed at recovering their ancestral territory.
The first was 17-year-old Alex Lemún, who was shot in the head by a police officer in 2002. The military court that tried the case ruled that the officer had shot in self-defense, even though no evidence was found in the investigation that anyone other than the police had opened fire. And in January 2008, a member of the Carabineros (military police) shot 23-year-old university student Matrías Catrileo, whose death is still being investigated by the military courts.
Mendoza’s death coincided with Planning Minister Paula Quintana’s visit to Geneva this week, where she reported to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on the situation in Chile.
After an unsuccessful attempt to meet with socialist President Michelle Bachelet in Santiago, a group of traditional indigenous leaders or “loncos” launched a new wave of land occupations and protests in Araucanía on July 23.
In addition to the occupations of land, there have been violent incidents in which small groups of hooded activists threw stones at and painted graffiti on a passenger bus and set fire to two trucks. A radical Mapuche group, Coordinadora Arauco Malleco (CAM), claimed responsibility for the incidents. (IPS via Upside Down World, Aug. 16)