By Aislinn Laing
SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Police shot and killed a Mapuche man in Chile’s Araucania province on Friday, fueling tensions with the group and potentially undermining attempts to improve relations between the state and the country’s indigenous population.
The shooting, reported in the local press as a conflict between police and alleged squatters from a forestry company, is expected to ignite tensions in the region. Indigenous people have been claiming for decades that their territory was illegally requisitioned by agricultural and forestry companies acting with the complicity of the State.
Initially, the murder was reported as being that of the son of an important local Mapuche leader, Héctor Llaitul, but later local media claimed the body had been wrongly identified.
Chilean police declined to comment, and the public prosecutor did not respond to Reuters’ request for further comment.
The Chilean Institute of Human Rights said the shooting “would further exacerbate the complex situation in the region”, calling for a “fast, thorough and transparent investigation”.
The incident took place around 5:30 pm local time (6:30 pm Brasília time) at the Santa Ana-Tres Palos farm in Carahue, 55 kilometers west of the region’s capital, Temuco, media outlets said.
Police said a group of hooded individuals arrived at the farm and shot an employee, prompting the police operation, according to local news station Mega.
Last week, 155 Chilean citizens writing the country’s new constitution elected a Mapuche scholar, Elisa Loncón, to chair the constituent assembly, an important turnaround because indigenous people are not recognized in the current constitution, adopted during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
(Reporting by Aislinn Laing and Fabian Cambero)
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