SANTIAGO/TEMUCO – Chile’s president has urged the three state branches to come together to reach a “bona fide political agreement” to face violence in the area. Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rodrigo Delgado was welcomed with protests in Temuco as he arrived to meet with authorities in the Araucanía region. Tensions are running high in the zone.
After President Sebastián Piñera announced a plan to confront the violence in the Biobío, Araucanía, and Los Ríos regions on Feb. 22, Interior Minister Delgado traveled to Temuco the following day to meet up with local authorities to work on a security strategy, following the recent arson attacks. Local farmers protested outside Temuco’s government building while the meeting was taking place, demanding the government to “put on their pants” and find concrete solutions to this problem, Cooperativa reported.
In his meeting, the president recognized “the gravity of the violent incidents and terrorist attacks we have seen in the southern macro zone, particularly in the Araucanía [and] Biobío regions, especially in Arauco province, and some areas of the Los Ríos region,” and showed his will to fight with all powers granted by law, but “always respecting human rights,” he added.
Among the president’s proposals, are a series of “necessary and urgent” laws, such as a “more efficient” anti-terrorism law, a reform to drug trafficking law, the Juan Barrios bill (named after the trucker who died after an incendiary attack in 2020), as well as the land usurpation bill and a bill to penalize timber theft. In this context, the head of state emphasized that “Congress needs to accelerate legislative proceedings.”
President Piñera also sent the interior minister and police commanders to the zone to work on an action plan focused on intelligence and operations. Ultimately, Piñera said he would call all political parties to reach a national agreement that would “allow us to unite to beat this wave of violence and the wave of terrorist attacks.”
— Gobierno de Chile (@GobiernodeChile) February 22, 2021
Minister Delgado’s Action Plan
The interior minister announced mixed military and police patrol squads for the area. Further to this, five permanent checkpoints will be set up across the regions. “The first thing to highlight is a command force for each of the regions, where police, the army, regional governors and other authorities will collaborate.” Moreover, the secretary said in a press conference “we have to differentiate when police officers are acting in territories to control public order and … when this is related to attacks with war weaponry.”
— Min. Interior Chile (@min_interior) February 23, 2021
In the same meeting, Police General Ricardo Yáñez discussed the effects of rural violence on police in the area: since 2010, 394 officers have been injured, 38 seriously, and 84 because of bullets; since 2012, three officers have died, each during armed attacks; and, since 2009, over 390 vehicles have been damaged.
Mapuche Communities Have A Say
Leaders from Mapuche communities turned up at Temuco’s government offices during Minister Delgado’s visit on Feb. 23, asking the government to talk to them, with a particular focus on the restitution of lands.
Aucán Huilcaman, spokesperson for the All-Lands Council, told Cooperativa he was “calling the president of the republic to dialogue, he is the head of state and as such he must be the one to call for dialogue, regardless of the nature of these tensions and conflicts in the country.” “The situation in La Araucanía has been known for a long time and not a single government has had the courage, the decisiveness to dialogue in good faith with all the parties involved,” he added.