ENCILLA – The death of Juan Mendoza, lonco of the Ercilla commune in the Araucanía region, has raised questions among the Mapuche community. The body of the lonco was found on December 31 on the side of a road. Although the cause of death remains unknown, investigators have confirmed that his body showed signs of aggression.
Juan Mendoza (61) was lonco, or chief, in the Ercilla commune, and disappeared on December 29. His body was found two days later, on the side of a rural road. Officers from the Chilean investigative police PDI have reported that the body of Mendoza was covered with third party injuries.
The commune of Ercilla has been making headlines for nearly two months now, as the killing of Camilo Catrillanca took place in the same area. Since the death of Catrillanca, tensions in the commune have been high, resulting in clashes between Mapuche comuneros and Carabineros.
In the aftermath of the death of Camilo Catrillanca, comuneros occupied seven properties from Chilean forestry companies in Ercilla. On December 31 – the day the body of lonco Mendoza was found – Carabineros managed to retake one of these properties. Four people got arrested and three people got injured.
The PDI investigates if the disappearance and death of Juan Mendoza has any link to these occupations. Spokespeople from the Mapuche community have criticized the lack of information, as the body of Mendoza is still being held by authorities and family members of the indigenous chief are waiting on more news on when they can perform the traditional rituals for the funeral of the lonco.
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.