Chile: special forces raid Mapuche community

Some 300 police agents carried out a raid the morning of Oct. 9 at an estate occupied by members of the indigenous Mapuche community of Temucuicui in Chile’s southern region of AraucanĂ­a. According to community members, agents from the carabineros militarized police destroyed houses and crops, beat residents and ran over sheep with their vehicles, killing 15 animals and injuring many others. At least four people were arrested, including werken (spokesperson) Mijael Carbone Queipul; his wife, Susana Venegas Curinao; werken Jorge Huenchullán; and his brother, who was reportedly wounded by a bullet.

The police operation took place at the Nilontraru estate, which is claimed by landowners RenĂ© Urban and Luis Valenzuela. The Temucuicui community says the estate is on ancestral Mapuche land, and community members have been living and farming there for two years. Temucuicui residents are actively reclaiming land from estate owners, including estates officially belonging to the landowner MartĂ­n Ruf and the Zeit family. (Some sources give the landowners’ names as “Ruff” and “Seinz.”) These actions have apparently brought reprisals from the government, including a raid on May 23 of this year. Police also attacked community residents on July 23, 2012, shortly after the Mapuche occupied another estate; the agents shot two minors at close range with rubber bullets, provoking outrage and protests in other parts of Chile.

Temucuicui werken Jorge Huenchullán traveled to Europe in September and addressed the 24th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on the situation of the Mapuche in Chile. He also presented the Mapuche case in meetings with members of the European Parliament. The Temucuicui community believes that the Oct. 9 raid was the government’s response to Huenchullán’s European visit. (Radio Universidad de Chile, Oct. 9; UNPO, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, Oct. 10; Adital, Brazil, Oct. 15)

The Mapuche are the largest indigenous group in Chile, and the Mapuche organization Meli Wixan Mapu sponsored an indigenous rights march in Santiago on Oct. 12, the official anniversary of the arrival of Spanish colonizer Christopher Columbus in the Americas. “Today is not a day to celebrate,” one protester said. “It is a day to condemn and repudiate all the abuses that we’ve suffered for more than 500 years.” The march, which drew thousands of indigenous people and their supporters, was peaceful until the end, when some confrontations broke out between police agents and protesters at the corner of Miraflores and Agustinas streets. (CNN Chile, Oct. 12; Huffington Post, Oct. 15)

Mapuche activists in Melipeuco, a town in CautĂ­n province in AraucanĂ­a, won a victory at the beginning of October when the IngenierĂ­a y ConstrucciĂłn Madrid Limitada company withdrew its plan to build a $24 million hydroelectric plant on the Truful-Truful river. Mapuche organizations were joined by tourism interests in filing complaints against the plan with the government’s Environmental Evaluation Service (SEA) charging that the dam would compromise the Trayenko area, which is sacred to the Mapuche. (Kaos en la Red, Oct. 8)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, October 20.