Tensions in Chile as Mapuche hunger strike reaches 111 days

Khawaja Dawood/The Santiago Times Staff

SANTIAGO – The Mapuche-related unrest has intensified in Chile after the arrest of at least 30 people who staged a protest outside the Cathedral of Concepcion.

During the demonstrations in the southern city of Chile, the Carabineros ended up imprisoning several citizens who support four Mapuche activists who have been on hunger strike for 111 days.

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The brothers – Benito, Pablo, and Ariel Trangol, and Alfredo Tralcal – in a delicate state of health and currently imprisoned in the city of Temuco, about 670 kilometers south of Santiago de Chile.

They are accused of burning an evangelical temple in Padre Las Casas in 2016.

The Mapuche feel unfairly treated by the government and protest against an anti-terrorism law brought in under the Pinochet regime that is to be applied to their case. This legislation allows exceptional procedures and generally results in sentences which are three times longer than those normally imposed.

A few days ago, two Catholic churches and an evangelical church were set on fire in the La Araucanía region. The police said that a crime of radical map search had been found at the crime scene.

Church burned to ground in Araucanía region

According to the Archbishop of Concepcion, Fernando Chomalí, he did not ask for the eviction of the people who were inside the cathedral and neither of those who protested abroad, even though they prevented the parishioners from passing.

Last weekend, eight more Mapuche people were also detained for their alleged responsibility for the latest burning of trucks and churches in the area, which is under investigation.

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Chilean police also arrested Victor Queipul, a leader of a Mapuche community in La Araucanía, where 600,000 hectares of indigenous people occupy only 5% of the lands inherited from their families.

That is the basis of the conflict, particularly against the forest companies that hold most of the territory, one of the poorest in Chile.

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Mapuche conflicts have been spreading in Chile and Argentina for months. The Indios are resisting the loss of their settlements.

18 semi trucks set on fire in Temuco

Mapuche are known for their rebellious spirit; during the colonial period, they were the only indigenous people of Latin America successfully defending their territory against the Spanish colonial leaders.

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Today its original tribal territory is largely in the hands of investors and landowners.

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Around 600,000 Mapuche live in Chile, they are the largest indigenous group in the country. In the south of Argentina, about 100,000 Mapuche still live. There has been a conflict between Mapuche and the Italian textile group Benetton for months, which uses about one million hectares in the Argentine Patagonia for sheep farming.