“Operación Huracán”: Mapuches acquitted of arson attack to sue Chilean state, Carabineros

"Operación Huracán"

SANTIAGO – Several of the Mapuche community members of southern Chile who were acquitted after the closing of the so-called “Operation Hurricane”, in which they were accused of carrying out various arson attacks based on evidence delivered by the Carabineros, which the Prosecutor General’s Office identified as false, have resolved to file a complaint against seven police officials.

The first complaint will be presented in the city of southern Chile, Temuco by lawyer Karina Riquelme, defender of the brothers Jaime and Rodrigo Huenchullán, according to the Diario Austral. “The lawsuit is against seven police officers who are now identified and who are the defendants in the investigation carried out by the Office of the Prosecutor,” said Riquelme.

“The objective is that the falsification of a public instrument that occurs is not unpunished,” the lawyer added, noting that the lawsuit will request various measures in addition to requesting that the investigation, which until now leads Carabineros, go to the hands of the Police of Investigations (PDI).

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Manuela Royo, lawyer for another of the community members dismissed, announced that she will file a civil suit against the Treasury “for the extra contractual liability that has been generated” in the case of her client who “was a direct victim of the implementation of these messages.”

The suit will join a complaint for the crimes of obstruction to the investigation and ideological falsification of a public instrument.

Meanwhile, the lawyer Rodrigo Román, representative of Héctor Llaitul, accused as leader of the Coordinadora Arauco Malleco (Cam) also announced a complaint against the carabineros involved, “and against all those responsible for the crimes that are already known.”

However, he ruled out filing a compensation claim, stating that Llaitul’s relationship with the State “is different, he does not seek pecuniary compensation from the State in that regard.”

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Last Friday, a guarantee judge in Temuco accepted a request from the Prosecutor’s Office to close the investigation for the burning of dozens of trucks, on the basis that Carabineros falsified evidence to accuse Mapuche leaders.

The judge also rejected a request from the government to order the reopening of the investigation and also determined to permanently dismiss the eight community members charged in the so-called “Operation Hurricane” and two other Mapuches involved in a truck burning in the town of Padre Las Houses.

The Prosecutor’s Office requested the closure of the case after finding that the community members were charged and remanded in custody last September with evidence planted on their cell phones by the police officers themselves.

However, the Prosecutor’s Office appealed the dismissal of the community members, who cannot be imputed again in the same case even if new precedents arise, while the government will probably announce what measures it will adopt to try to revive the original investigation.

In the south of Chile there has been a conflict for several decades between communities that claim ancestral territories and agricultural and forestry companies, which in recent years have led to outbreaks of violence in which several community members, police and farmers have died.

At the same time, several dozens of community members have been prosecuted and convicted of various crimes, mainly arson attacks.

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“Operación Huracán”

A series of human rights abuses by members of the Military Police of Chile (Carabineros de Chile) have provoked the most serious scandals since the end of the military dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990).

After it became known last year that high-ranking generals had misappropriated funds over the years, the prosecution uncovered massive evidence of counterfeiting in the last large-scale deployment of the security forces against the Mapuche at the end of January. Prosecutor Cristián Paredes Valenzuela, who had then initiated an investigation, received threats from the Carabineros and is under personal protection by the Criminal Investigation.

Under the name “Operación Huracán”, in August 2017, eight leading members of the indigenous protest movement were arrested under “terror suspicion” and put on remand.

Due to the events that have become known, the Carabineros are currently in one of their biggest legitimacy crises of recent history.

The police force, known as the Carabineros de Chile, has been under the authority of the Interior Minister since the end of the dictatorship, but nominal control remained with the Ministry of Defense.