Chilean President Sebastián Piñera extended until November 11 the state of exception, in force since October 12, in the Bío-Bío and Araucanía regions. The measure was imposed after the wave of violence registered in recent weeks due to clashes with members of the Mapuche community who are demanding the return of their lands.
The military will continue to guard the streets of several provinces in the Bío-Bío and Araucanía regions, in southern Chile, after President Sebastián Piñera requested an extension of two more weeks (until November 11) of the state of emergency that was imposed in this area of the country.
For several weeks there have been several fires against churches, houses, attacks against civilians and police, hunger strikes by indigenous prisoners and shootings that have left fatalities.
“The Araucanía and Bío-bío region have seriously suffered the effects of violence, attacks by organized crime gangs, terrorism, drug trafficking, and theft of wood,” said Piñera.
With the extension of the state of emergency, street security continues to be in charge of some 2,000 members of the Chilean Armed Forces and, in the event of a second extension, the president must have the authorization of Congress.
The soldiers will continue to patrol the streets, providing technological and logistical support in the territory, they can also prevent demonstrations or meetings in public spaces and control the entry and exit of people in the provinces affected by the measure.
So far, authorities have detained about 30 people and fires and property thefts have been cut in half.
A historical conflict
In recent days, President Piñera referred to the groups linked to drug trafficking, terrorism and organized crime that are destabilizing the tranquility in the southern regions, inhabited mostly by members of the Mapuche community and, therefore, where there are more indigenous movements.
“This state of emergency, I want to say it with all its letters, is not directed against any people, any ethnic group, or any group in particular,” said the Chilean head of state when announcing the state of exception on October 12.
But, the conflict in southern Chile has a historical background that dates back to the middle of the 19th century, when the Chilean State imposed itself on these regions, originally Mapuche, through arms.
Over time, the indigenous people were losing their lands to give them to the European settlers who were arriving. The land then became the center of the conflict and other contemporary invaders continued to occupy the lands that had ancestral owners: agricultural and forestry companies began to exploit natural resources in various areas.
Consequently, it is not surprising that in southern Chile, especially in the Araucanía region, poverty rates exceed those of the rest of the country’s regions.
Faced with this lack of recognition, then, the Chilean Constitution does not even explicitly speak of the existence of indigenous peoples in its territory, and before the imposition of the state of exception, indigenous movements assure that it is not through violence that they want to resolve the problems and accuse the Government of wanting to further muddy the conflict that has not been resolved for decades.
With EFE and local media