COLLIPULLI – Questions have arisen over the death of Mapuche leader Alejandro Alberto Treuquil Treuquil, who was killed last week near Collipulli in southern Chile. According to reports, Treuquil walked into an ambush in the forest. For several weeks leading up to his death, his community had been complaining about increasing police repression in the area.
Alejandro Alberto Trequil Treuquil, who was werkén – or leader – of a Mapuche community in Collipulli, was ambushed and shot to death while he and three others were looking for a lost horse, according to police reports. The three others, aged 19, 18, and 14, sustained minor injuries. Treuquil left behind a family with four children. His community, called the We Newén, claims ancestral rights to a piece of land it has been occupying for seven years. The formal owner of the land is the Frontel electricity company. The Public Prosecutor in the La Araucanía region and the investigative police (PDI) have started an investigation.
In response to Treuquil’s killing, the communitypublished a statement denouncing ongoing police persecutions in the area. According to the the statement, since May 13, the community has been under “a state of siege.”
“We have been victims of illegitimate police persecution, for which a preventive appeal for protection was filed, revealing the constant and repeated threats suffered by the people of the community and especially by our werkén, who died today,” the statement reads. “Our werkén was cowardly murdered by individuals from outside the community while he was searching for one of his horses nearby.”
Héctor Cabrapán, the newly-appointed werkén following Treuquil’s murder, spoke with Radio and Diario Universidad de Chile about the police presence ahead of the murder of Treuquil. “For three days and nights we were getting oppressed by police … my peñi [brother] received a death threat from them.”
In the interview, Cabrapán says over 20 people were involved in the ambush on Treuquil. “We don’t rule out the possibility that they had my peñi killed because he was threatened by the Carabineros, by the State, who wanted to kill him. We don’t rule out that if was them who ambushed my peñi.”
Ongoing Raids Denounced by Treuquil
Treuquil, himself, spoke on May 19 with Radio and Diario Universidad de Chile, after he had been stopped by police in the area on May 13. According to Treuquil, police said they had a warrant for his arrest. When Treuquil fled the scene, he got shot with a rubber bullet in the back of his head.
Treuquil spoke in the interview of ongoing raids by police officers on their community – how the police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and often appeared without explanation. “We don’t know why they are hitting us, why they want to stop us. Neither the Carabineros nor anyone else has specified why they are mistreating us, especially our children.”
In addition to physical violence, Trequil spoke of psychological warfare by the omnipresent police force. “The police shouts insults at us every day through the speakers of their vehicles, such as “indios culiaos, you are going to fall one by one” and “we are going to kill you, sons of bitches.” Already before the killing of Treuquil, observers from the National Institute of Human Rights (INDH) announced they’d visit the community to investigate police oppression.
Human Rights Organizations Demand Investigations
After Treuquil’s death, the INDH announced it would demand protection for the community. According to Federico Aguirre, head of the INDH in the La Araucanía region, although there is no evidence state agents were involved in the killing, “the testimonies of community members are all related to the violations of rights due to police operations in the community.”
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHCR) also spoke out. In its statement, the IAHCR emphasizes that Treuquil had recently denounced the harassment of his community by the Carabineros.
The Commission “urges Chile to carry out a serious, prompt, exhaustive, independent, and impartial investigation and to judge and punish those intellectually and materially responsible. The stages of these proceedings must incorporate a differentiated ethnic-racial approach.”
#Chile🇨🇱 @CIDH condena asesinato del indígena mapuche Alejandro Treuquil en We Newén, comuna de Collipulli, La Araucanía, tras disparos de armas de fuego por un grupo civil armado.Según información, Alejandro recién había denunciado hostigamiento por carabineros a su comunidad.1
— CIDH – IACHR (@CIDH) June 7, 2020
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.