CONCEPCIÓN – In recent months, the number of arson attacks in the southern regions has increased exponentially. Lumber machinery, trucks, and even rural schools have been attacked. However, prosecutors now doubt that the schools were attacked by the same groups that burned the machinery and trucks.
Arson attacks are far from uncommon in the Araucanía and Biobío regions in southern Chile. In recent years, numerous trucks, machinery, and storage facilities have been attacked. These incidents are often linked to the Mapuche conflict in the south. Indigenous resistance groups claim ancestral rights over the lands exploited by the lumber companies, and enforce their claims with arson attacks.
However, in recent weeks, at least three rural schools in the Biobío region have been targeted and severely damaged. According to EL DINAMO, the regional Public Prosecutor says these attacks are not in line with Mapuche resistance group attacks. They even rule out Mapuche involvement in these fires.
Atentado incendiario afectó en su totalidad dependencias del establecimiento educacional municipal F820, Ana Molina.
Durante la noche y madrugada lugareños reportaron una serie de disparos en la zona rural al norte de Tirúa. pic.twitter.com/53TensMcFE
— APRA ARAUCANíA (@aprachile) July 22, 2020
According to Juan Yáñez, prosecutor in the region, evidence was found at the Ana Molina de Tranaquepe F-820 School, the third school to burn in the series of attacks. At the scene, pamphlets were found with Mapuche symbols. However, the symbol used was not drawn correctly.
“The pamphlet had a symbol of a cultrún (an instrument used by spiritual Mapuche leaders), and it didn’t have the real symbols normally portrayed on a cultrún; it was clear that these were not Mapuche people,” Yañez said. “In this region, there are events that are linked to the Mapuche conflict, and others that because of their background lead me to believe that they have nothing to do with territorial claims, for one very simple thing: the Mapuche people are not going to burn the things that benefit them.”
Authorities in the region are now assessing how to rebuild and safeguard the schools. According to Fernando Peña, the education authority in the region, the Interior Ministry needs to improve security in the region. “It is necessary to guarantee working conditions, because as long as the violence persists it will be difficult to find companies willing to work on any job,” he said. “These are criminal gangs, heavily armed and organized, that use the Mapuche people as a screen to commit their crimes.”
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.