‘Jungle Command’: Piñera creates special force to tackle ‘terrorism’ in southern Chile

SANTIAGO – Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera on Thursday presented a team of armored vehicles, unmanned aerial systems and short-range thermal chambers while announcing the creation of a special Carabineros force to fight more effectively the rural violence in the area of the so-called Mapuche conflict.

The specialized team is composed of 80 officials and received training in the United States and Colombia to face acts of terrorism.

“We created a special force of Carabineros that has been prepared in Chile and abroad to improve the effectiveness of our police in the fight against terrorism,” said Piñera during a visit to Temuco, capital of La Araucanía, a region with the largest Mapuche population.

He was accompanied by Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick and the General Director of Carabineros, Hermes Soto.

“(This force) is prepared, trained and designed to carry out actions of deterrence, intervention, with a single objective: to seek, prevent and avoid as far as possible these terrorist and violent behaviors,” said the president.

The announcement was made by the president in Temuco, 672 kilometers from Santiago de Chile, where he headed the Business Meeting of La Araucanía, (Enela), aimed at promoting business activity, investment and productive development in the region, the poorest of Chile.

This is the second visit of the Chilean president to La Araucanía since he assumed his second presidential term last March.

According to the president, the special force will be endowed with “the best and most modern, most innovative, in terms of technology, with armored vehicles to protect them better, because a protected police is a more effective police.”

This “Jungle Command” will have two Tundra trucks, two Mowag cars, drones and special uniform to move in forests. From July, the team will also be reinforced with 20 thermographic night viewers, and the so-called “GPS Spot”, positioning devices to know the location and displacement of the police on the basis of geographic coordinates and signal via satelite.

The special force will be composed of 80 carabineros divided into four units that will operate in the provinces of Malleco and Cautín, in the Araucanía region, and in the Arauco and Alto Biobío communities, in the Biobío region.

However, this plan has provoked a harsh rejection in La Araucanía. The president of the Association of Municipalities with Mapuche Mayor, Juan Carlos Reinao, is one of the biggest critics and pointed out that the area is treated as if it were at war.

“The President, it seems, got confused about the country. His announcement to militarize the region, as if it were a territory at war, seems an aberration and historical error,” he argued.

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In this regard, General Soto ruled out that this new group will generate conflicts with indigenous peoples: “This is not related to the Mapuche people,” he explained.

“Leaders of Mapuche communities who have never had a conflict will never have problems, people who have criminal conflicts have to be treated as such, but people from communities that are mostly peaceful have never had problems with us,” explained La Tercera.

In the south of Chile there has been a conflict between Mapuche communities for decades demanding ancestral lands and agricultural or forestry companies that legally own them, which in recent years has led to outbreaks of violence in which several people have died.

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At the same time, several dozen Mapuches have been prosecuted and convicted of various crimes, mainly arson attacks.