SANTIAGO – Police in southern Chile have arrested half a dozen indigenous Mapuche people suspected of carrying out an arson attack in Los Rios region, which left 29 logging trucks burned on Monday morning.
The trucks belonged to Sotraser, a subcontractor that mainly serves subsidiaries of Chilean forestry companies Empresas CMPC and Arauco [ANTCOC.UL].
In a similar attack last week, 18 trucks were burned by unidentified persons.
Local authorities said at least two people were responsible for the Monday’s attack, although local media reported that as many as seven people were responsible.
“We’re going to combat violence and we are not going to allow minoritarian groups, which don’t value dialogue, to ruin the great effort all regional actors in the south are doing to promote development and overcome exclusion,” Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said in televised remarks.
Around 600,000 Mapuche live in Chile, concentrated in Araucania and Bio Bio, two lush and hilly provinces roughly 400 miles south of Santiago, the nation’s capital.
Ever since the Chilean army invaded Mapuche territory in a brutal campaign in the late 1800s, relations with the state have been fractious.
The conflict has accelerated in recent years, with armed groups burning houses, churches, trucks, and forest plantations. It has also spread geographically.
The conflict is weighing on Chile’s logging industry, the nation’s second largest export sector after mining.