LATIN AMERICAFriday, January 3, 2014
Chile probes ‘terrorist acts’ in Mapuche region
Government designates special prosecutor to investigate recent incidents in Araucania
SANTIAGO — Chile’s Prosecutor’s Office yesterday designated a special investigator to probe 12 violent incidents that took place during the last two weeks in the Araucania region, considered the “red zone” of the Mapuche conflict.
Araucania’s lead prosecutor Alberto Chiffelle will be in charge of investigating the incidents, which the government has branded as “terrorist acts.”He will be aided by prosecutors Andrés Velázquez and Luis Arroyo.
The Araucania region, inhabited by hundreds of Mapuche communities, is located between 600 and 700 kilometres south of Santiago.
The government has historically blamed Mapuches for similar attacks in the area without waiting for the result of police investigations.
Yesterday, Chilean Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick said that the police is working “to find and punish those responsible” for the “terrorist acts” in Araucania.
The incidents have mostly taken place in rural areas but on December 31 an arson attack reached the city of Temuco, 700 kilometres south of Santiago. Pamphlets referring to an anarchist killed in December during a bank robbery in Santiago were found close to the house that was attacked, Temuco Governor Andrés Molina said yesterday.
He also said that the placing of two separate bombs that failed to explode will also be investigated.
Nobody was injured in the attacks but the police has failed to make any arrests yet.
The end-of-the-year attacks add to several incidents that took place in the region during the last month of 2013.
‘no anti-terror law yet’
The government has increased police surveillance in Araucania following the incidents. Almost 3000 Mapuche communities inhabit the region and a few of them are still fighting to recover their ancestral lands, which are currently owned by large farmers.
December and January are usually conflictive months in Araucania because Mapuches commemorate the death of Matías Catrileo, a young Mapuche activist who was shot in the back and killed by police in 2008.
Chadwick said yesterday that Chiffelle will complement the work of the police in the Araucania region, with the goal of “moving forward in the investigation.” He also said that the special prosecutor will evaluate if the attacks were linked and will work to identify those responsible.
“The Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the arson attack and the placing of the bombs. We haven’t invoked the anti-terror law yet,” Prosecutor General Sabas Chahuán said yesterday.
He said that the government could still decide to invoke the law if a link between the attacks is found.
Herald with AP, online media