MAPUCHE

‘Jungle Command’ – a new special force to respond to southern violence

SANTIAGO – To target “terrorism,” the Chilean government has created a new special force. ‘Jungle Command’ is a tactical group that will confront rural violence in Chile’s south. Could this group exacerbate the Mapuche conflict?

Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera has created a new special force that will fight rural violence. The Special Police Operation Group GOPE (Spanish acronym) comprises local police, known as Carabineros. GOPE trained in Colombia’s jungle for 30 days, and will operate to prevent and respond to acts of so-called terrorism in the regions of La Araucanía, Bío Bío, and Los Ríos. The group of 80 Carabineros will also have high-tech equipment and tactical vehicles in line with those regions’ challenging geography.

Eric Gajardo, a Carabineros general, explained why the Colombian jungle is the right place for the training: “The Araucanía region has geographic and topographic features that make rural police operations different from the urban sector. That is why our personnel have gone to beef up there. So they will have better knowledge about orientation techniques and other strategies that will allow them to prevent attacks in the region,” said Gajardo.

Reactions

Opposition parliamentarians criticized ‘Jungle Command.’ Deputy of Partido por la Democracia Andrea Parra said it “is a bad measure because it doesn’t come with another policy. The only thing we have seen here is security measures. The measures alone don’t contribute to solve the problem.” In addition, Francisco Huenchumilla, a senator from the Christian Democratic party, also rejected the move. “Colombia’s situation is opposite from Chile’s. In Colombia there were guerrilla and drug trafficking.”

Hermes Soto, Carabineros general director said that the team’s aim is to keep the peace. According to Soto, the group has nothing to do with the Mapuche people and admitted that the special force will not improve the Mapuche conflict. “The Mapuche leaders that were never in trouble with the police will never have problems with the group. The people from the communities who are peaceful have never had problems with us.”

The Mapuche conflict materializes through incendiary attacks by groups that claim their right to southern territory. They fight for their right to freely express their cultural identity.

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