SANTIAGO – Where the attack on Mapuche activists provoked outcry and anger among Chileans, who protested both online and on the streets on Sunday, the government has announced an increase in security measures. Human rights organizations have warned that the state must always protect its indigenous minorities. Mapuche spokesmen say the state is trying to provoke a civil war in the south.
The Undersecretary of Interior Juan Francisco Galli visited the affected zone on Sunday, together with the new Social Development Minister Karla Rubilar. Galli said he condemned the violent night in Curacautín. “We condemn this violence, without ifs and buts. Violence leads to nothing and can lead to more violence,” he said, adding that security measures would be increased. “We will be supporting the municipality of Ercilla, the municipality of Traiguén, Curacautín, Victoria, and all the municipalities that were affected yesterday, in order to provide the services that Chileans need so much. We will redouble our presence.”
During his press conference, Galli said he doubted it was Curacautín residents who participated in the attack on the town hall. “I doubt very much that the violence was led by people who need the municipal services. This violence was caused by an organized minority.”
The attack in Curacautín occurred several days after Victor Pérez assumed his position as the new interior minister. In his first days as minister, Pérez visited the La Araucanía region where tensions were already reaching a boiling point. During his visit, he assured that there would be no room for the violent groups that are causing unrest in the region. “We are facing organized violent groups with financing and quite a lot of firepower,” Pérez said.
He added that the groups are allegedly involved in drug-trafficking. “All Chileans deserve to live in peace and this is a fundamental task of the government, and in Araucanía there is an extremely serious problem of violence. The issue is not merely a police matter, but also a fundamental political issue that must be resolved, but in order to talk we must isolate the violent people,” Pérez said. “I believe in dialogue and democracy above all things, I think we have to understand each other and if we don’t, Chile is the one that suffers.”
Local Authorities and Mapuche Leaders Point to the State
Mayors of the affected town argue however that the attacks on Saturday night would not have happened if the State “hadn’t abandoned the region.” The mayor of Victoria, Javier Jaramillo, told Cooperativa that on Pérez’s visit to the region, Pérez did not want to meet with the local authorities. “The government has left us alone, abandoned us. It believed that it could only be resolved by giving an eviction order,” Jaramillo said. “The fact that Pérez told the press that the Mapuche activists had to be removed at any cost through eviction … it is the government that is increasingly inciting hatred.”
Jorge Saquel, mayor of Curacautin, also lashed out at the national government, stating that “since this started we said it was a public safety issue, that it was a political issue and that they had to see [in the government] how [it should be] solved.”
Mapuche leader Aucán Huilcamán, spokesman of indigenous council Consejo de Todas las Tierras, also pointed to the national government, and in particular the new interior minister. “The acts of racial hatred and violence committed by Chileans against the Mapuche, who peacefully occupied the municipality of Curacautín and Victoria, are the strict responsibility of the minister of the interior, Víctor Pérez Varela. Upon his arrival in La Araucanía, with his declarations, he came to encourage not only the institutional violence of the Chilean state, but also racial violence and hatred.”
Giovanna Tabilo, who represents the spiritual leader Celestino Córdoba, whose hunger strike was the reason Mapuche activists were occupying the town halls, said the message from the minister has called for the violent attacks. “He gave the green light for calls to be made from ultra-right-wing sectors, landowners and they could act with total impunity … it is very dangerous to be provoking a civil war.”
As such, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) took to Twitter after the attacks, to remind the Chilean state “of its obligations to protect people against discrimination based on ethnic origin.” In its statement, the commission urged authorities “to prevent, investigate, and punish these acts, and to confront the racist narratives against the demands of the Mapuche people.”
#Chile 🇨🇱 La @CIDH recibe con preocupación información sobre grupos que anoche, armados con objetos contundentes, actuaron violentamente, profirieron discursos racistas y quemaron símbolos espirituales mapuche, en algunas localidades de la Araucanía. #PueblosIndigenas #DDHH 1
— CIDH – IACHR (@CIDH) August 2, 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.