Trucks, heavy machinery burnt in southern Chile arson attack

SANTIAGO – At least 29 tractor trailer trucks and other heavy machinery burned by arsonists in southern Chile early on Friday, according to police and a truck owners association.

In a statement following the attack, Chile’s National Confederation of Truck Owners called on the government to “halt the attacks and the terrorism.”

Photos in local media showed several large tractor trailer trucks engulfed in flames along a dark dirt road in the country’s heavily forested Araucania region.

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The area is the heart of Chile’s important forestry and paper industry, and the trucks and machinery used by local businesses have often been the target of arson attacks and hijackings.

Local authorities had yet to identify suspects as of Friday morning.

“We’re waiting for the prosecutor to arrive and examine the scene,” the governor of Arauco, Humberto Toro, told local radio station radio Cooperativa.

Photos in local media from the scene of one of the attacks showed pamphlets and a banner from a Mapuche organization known as “Coordinadora Arauco-Malleco,” a radical group that says it fights for the recovery of Mapuche lands.

Indigenous communities of south-central Chile have long accused the state and private companies of taking their ancestral land, stripping it of natural resources and using heavy-handed enforcement against their communities.

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In January, on the eve of a visit by Pope Francis to Temuco, the regional capital, groups claiming to have ties to the Mapuche set fire to several churches, a schoolhouse and three helicopters.