Coordinadora Arauco Malleco leader Héctor Llaitul was arrested Aug. 24, just weeks after he confessed to stealing lumber a few weeks ago. The arrest was accomplished by Chile’s Investigations Police in Cañete, Biobío region. Llaitul was then moved to La Araucanía region by helicopter.
At 1:40 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 24, Héctor Llaitul, the leader of Coordinadora Arauco Malleco (CAM), an organization that seeks an autonomous Mapuche state in the territory it calls “Wallmapu,” was arrested by Chile’s Investigations Police (PDI). The CAM leader has been under investigation since 2020 by Chile’s Public Ministry for violating the State Security Law, after the Piñera administration filed a lawsuit against him. The warrant was approved by a court in Temuco, after the Araucanía Prosecutor ‘s Office requested it.
Llaitul is accused of stealing lumber, usurpation, and an attack on authorities, CNN reports. Consuelo Peña, prefect inspector, chief of the Araucanía region police, confirmed the arrest and that it was “accomplished without any difficulty.”
The arrest comes after controversial statements the CAM leader gave in the past weeks. In an exclusive interview with Chile Today, he validated the use of sabotage as a political action. The Boric administration initially said that it wouldn’t take actions against him for the declarations, but later Interior Minister Izkia Siches confirmed that the government was going to amend its lawsuit from 2020 to include additional claims.
Weeks after Llaitul’s statements, a video from June 10 in which he affirmed that CAM “recovers wood” went viral, El Mostrador reports. Several members of Congress then pressured the government to arrest the leader on theft charges.
After the arrest, Llaitul was moved to the city of Temuco where he spent five hours on Thursday, Aug. 25. He was then assigned to preventive detention in the Compliance Penitentiary Center of Biobío, in the city of Concepción. A 30-day deadline was put on the prosecutor’s office to investigate.
During the formalization, the amplification of the lawsuit filed by the Piñera administration was explained. The Public Ministry is demanding that PDI investigate the declarations made by Llaitul in the last couple of months, asking for Werken News and Chile Today to send copies of all materials regarding the interviews and a list of the people who were part of the production.
The public prosecutor also asked that PDI obtain the testimony of Chile Today Editor-in-chief Boris van der Spek. After his name came out through the formalization, van der Spek published a statement regarding the accusations: “I have never received an official invitation from any Chilean authority to testify, and I consider it a serious outrage against freedom of expression for them to visit the house of a journalist and his family to obtain information about something that clearly was a journalistic production.”
The fallout continues: Jeanette Vega’s resigns
The day after Llaitul’s arrest, Ex-Ante published a leaked PDI report that indicated that, on May 11, one of Social Development Minister Jeanette Vega’s advisers called the CAM leader to arrange a conversation between him and the minister. In the phone call, Llaitul asked the advisor to contact him through WhatsApp.
The publication made by Ex-Ante quickly went viral in social media, where people asked for the minister’s resignation, resurfacing the fact that the now-former minister referred to the Llaitul case on the tv program Tolerancia Cero on May 15, in which she indicated she was in favor of a lawsuit against him for his past declarations. Alongside the noise on social media, the opposition wing of Congress threatened the government with a possible constitutional accusation against Vega.
Just hours after Ex-Ante published the leak, Vega summarily resigned and President Gabriel Boric confirmed that he had accepted her resignation.
Catalina Vergara is graduated in Social Communications from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She has previously worked on Strategic Communications.