Investigations ongoing regarding deadly confrontation in Chile’s south

Chile´s Public Ministry has opened investigations into the two shootouts involving armed forces that occurred last week near the town of Cañete. During one, a 23-year-old Mapuche man died. The events happened during the ongoing State of Emergency, which might be extended this week.

With the army claiming self-defense and Mapuche communities citing testimony that soldiers shot at point-blank range, Chilean authorities are trying to determine what happened last Wednesday, Nov. 3, near the town of Cañete, when armed forces opened fire at two different locations.

During one of the shootouts, a 23-year-old man died, while another was severely injured. Authorities later said the injured man had died, too, which turned out to be false. The 23-year-old victim was buried on Sunday near Cañete, with hundreds of people attending his funeral. Around the town, the situation remains tense amid the presence of soldiers, who have put up roadblocks to try to better control the area.

In a speech last week, President Sebastián Piñera said army patrols were ambushed in the region and returned fire when shot upon. “These serious events, added to publications by heavily armed terrorist groups, which threaten our society and put the families of the Southern Macrozone at serious risk, do nothing more than ratify the need to maintain this Constitutional State of Emergency in the provinces of Biobío, Arauco, Malleco, and Cautín,” Piñera said. The State of Emergency was imposed 15 days ago and is set to expire this week. To extend it, the president needs approval from Congress.

A non-binding vote in the Araucanía region, held on Sunday, had a large majority of participants opting for an extension of the emergency measure that gives authorities the ability to impose restrictions such as curfew hours, prohibiting protests and other gatherings, and using armed forces to impose control in the region.

Several Mapuche communities have called out the Chilean state for the deadly violence in the region, with more militant groups threatening violence if the authorities don’t draw back their troops from the south. Indigenous constituents, such as Convention president Elisa Loncón, have also said violence is not the way to seek peace in the southern regions.

Meanwhile, the family of the Mapuche man killed during the shootout claims that armed forces blocked the vehicle that tried to bring him to the hospital. In a conversation with, a cousin of the victim says repression in the zone has only increased with the State of Emergency. “Those soldiers did not let him leave, if his mother could have taken him to the hospital it would have been a different story,” he said. “We demand an end to the state of emergency. Piñera has to pay for this murder.”

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