The army declared a red alert in Chile’s La Araucanía Region on May 10. The announcement follows a series of violent attacks there. A day earlier, Congress once again approved the extension of the State of Exception in the south – for the 23rd time.
The head of the National Defense in the Macrozona Sur (a geopolitical region in south-central Chile) has declared a red alert in the La Araucanía Region. The declaratio was further affirmed by the Undersecretary of the Interior, Manuel Monsalve, on May 10. The reason for the alert are several violent incidents in the region in the 24 hours that preceded the announcement, the minister stated.
According to Monsalve, the red alert means that 50 percent of the deployed troops in the area will be tasked to “carry out controls and do inspection work.” In addition, two helicopters and armored cars will be made available for the contingent present, in order to reinforce the government’s ability to respond to violence in the area.
Arson attacks and shootings
One of the incidents referred to by Monsalve was the attack on the home of Héctor Urban, a Republican representative for the Constitutional Council, on May 9. Urban’s house was the subject of a driveby shooting. That same day, Urban announced that his father was also attacked with firearms while driving. His father left the incident unscathed, while his home suffered damage.
The other incidents involved shootings and arson. Trucks were shot at in two separate attacks, and several trucks were set on fire in two other incidents. The attacks left a truck driver and a police officer injured.
On the morning of May 11, a truck was set on fire in a separate arson attack in Collipulli, La Araucanía. Some witnesses report that the perpetrators fired guns as well.
For some, the incidents were a reason to scold the government. Sebastián Naveillán, the president of a local farmer’s union, said that he wants the government to declare a complete State of Emergency: “more military personnel are needed in order to get the violence under control.”
Roberto Geyce, the president of another union, urged the government to take action. Referring to Carolina Tohá, Minister of the Interior: “Where is the military intelligence? The undefeated army is finally being defeated by guerrilla gangs. Madam Minister, for once and for all: take charge of the security crisis in La Araucanía.”
A violent cocktail
The La Araucanía Region has been marked by violence for years. Militant Mapuche groups, fighting for an autonomous state, in combination with corrupt police officers and an inapt government response, have made for a dangerous mix in the area.
In order to bring a halt to the unrest, Former President Sebastián Piñera deployed the military to the La Araucanía and Biobío Regions in 2021.
Upon assuming office in March 2022, Gabriel Boric ordered the withdrawal of the troops. However, he had to backtrack that decision just two months later, after violence sparked again. Izkia Siches, Boric’s first Interior Minister, was greeted with gunfire when she visited La Araucanía right after assuming office.
As a result of the ongoing conflict, the region has been under a new “temporary” State of Constitutional Emergency Exception since May 2022.
On the evening of May 9, Congress decided to extend the State of Exception for the 23rd time. The emergency state would have ended on May 11, but the extension establishes that there will be a military presence for at least another 15 days.
The emergency state seems to have had some effect. On May 9, the government announced that violent events in the region have decreased by 29 percent over the last 12 months. Even so, violence flared up again late April, with a 47 percent increase in incidents over the last two weeks.
Matthijs is a newly graduated journalism student from Groningen, the Netherlands. As a starting journalist and aspiring foreign correspondent, he decided to extend his 6-month university exchange in Chile to do an internship at Chile Today. He enjoys writing about a broad range of topics, but international relations, politics and conflicts are his key interests.