Chile: Police Siege Against Mapuche Communities After Death of Estate Owner

Businessman, wife die as home burns during attack believed by indigenous Mapuche

Chilean riot police raid a Mapuche village.

Chilean riot police raid a Mapuche village.

By Federico Quilodran, The Associated Press, Friday, January 4, 2013

SANTIAGO, Chile – An elderly couple whose family’s vast landholdings have long been targeted by Mapuche Indians in southern Chile were killed in an arson attack early Friday while trying to defend their home. The president quickly flew to the scene and announced new security measures, including the application of Chile’s tough anti-terrorism law and the creation of a special police anti-terror unit backed by Chile’s military.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack, which some Mapuche Indians repudiated Friday as senseless and abhorrent. But Chile’s interior minister said pamphlets condemning police violence and demanding the return of Mapuche lands were left at the scene. The presidentially appointed governor of the remote southern region of Araucania, Andres Molina, called the attackers “savages.”

“This attack affects the entire country and causes gigantic damage, for the pain and the delays that it means for thousands of families who want to live in peace,” Pinera said. “This government is united in its effort to combat terrorism that affects the region. We will not hesitate to apply the full weight of the law.”

“It should be completely clear,” Pinera added, “that this fight is not against the Mapuche people. It’s with a minority of violent terrorists who must be fought with everything the law allows.”

Werner Luchsinger, 75, fired a weapon in self-defence, and struck a man from the nearby Mapuche community of Juan Quintrupil before his home burned to the ground, regional police chief Ivan Bezmalinovic said.

Luchsinger’s wife Vivian McKay called relatives for help during the attack, but when they arrived just 15 minutes later the house was already in flames and she didn’t answer her phone, according to the victim’s cousin, Jorge Luchsinger.

Luchsinger house burns as firefighters attempt to extinguish flames, Jan 2013.

Luchsinger house burns as firefighters attempt to extinguish flames, Jan 2013.

The attack began Thursday night as one of many political protests around Chile commemorating the death five years ago of Mapuche activist Matias Catrileo, who was shot in the back by an officer who served a minor sentence and then rejoined the police. The Indians scattered pamphlets related to the anniversary while on the Luchsinger property, Interior Minister Andres Chadwick said.

The victims’ Lumahue ranch is just 16 miles (25 kilometres) from the spot where Catrileo was killed on Jan. 3, 2008.

Celestino Cordova Transito, 26, was detained near the scene early Friday. Police have him under arrest in a hospital in Temuco, where he was being treated for a gunshot wound in the neck, the chief said.

Gov. Molina said that Werner Luchsinger’s gunshot, by enabling police to capture the wounded suspect, may help solve not only the couple’s death but previous arson attacks as well.

“I want to thank Don Werner, because probably thanks to him we’re closer to finding these savages who have done such damage to Araucania,” he said.

Pinera also met briefly with the Luchsinger family as well as other local landowners next to the burned-out home, but Chile’s El Mercurio said the meeting was cut short when some fled due to a false rumour that Mapuche activists were targeting their properties even as the president spoke. Other landowners shouted out in anger, asking for tougher security measures, and then briefly blocked the main highway in protest.

Jorge Luchsinger said earlier Friday that masked Indians have repeatedly attacked his and other relatives’ properties as well, despite the considerable police presence in the area. “It’s obvious that the authorities are completely overwhelmed,” he told radio Cooperativa.

Many of Chile’s Mapuche activist groups were silent Friday about the murders, repeating instead their complaints about continuing police violence of the kind that killed Catrileo years ago.

Matias Catrileo, a Mapuche killed by Chilean police.

Matias Catrileo, a Mapuche killed by Chilean police, Jan 3, 2008.

But Venancio Conuepan, who described himself as a law student who comes from a long line of Mapuche leaders, wrote an editorial Friday condemning the violence, rejecting the idea that armed conflict can win their demands, and calling for the killers to be identified and tried in court. He said the vast majority of the Mapuche people agree with him.

“Enough of people using violence in the name of the Mapuche people. Our grandfathers never covered their faces. The Mapuche created parliaments, and always put dialogue first,” wrote Conuepan on Radio BioBio’s website, titling his editorial, “Although you don’t believe me, I’m Mapuche and I’m not a Terrorist.”

The Luchsinger family has been among the most outspoken in defending the property rights of the region’s landowners against ancestral land claims by the Mapuche. But Jorge said his cousin had taken a lower profile and refused police protection.

Lorena Fries, the director of Chile’s official Human Rights Institute, warned Friday against cracking down using the anti-terror law, which allows for holding suspects in isolation without charges, using secret witnesses and other measures that have been discredited by Chile’s courts in previous cases of Mapuche violence. Instead, she said Pinera should reach out to the Indians, and honour their demands for self-governance and the recovery of ancestral land. “Something has to be done so that everyone puts an end to the violence,” she said.

The Mapuches’ demands for land and autonomy date back centuries. They resisted Spanish and Chilean domination for more than 300 years before they were forced south to Araucania in 1881. Many of the 700,000 Mapuches who survive among Chile’s 17 million people still live in Araucania. A small fraction have been rebelling for decades, destroying forestry equipment and torching trees. Governments on the left and right have sent in police while offering programs that fall far short of their demands.

The Luchsinger family also arrived in Araucania in the late 1800s, from Switzerland, and benefited from the government’s colonization policies for decades thereafter, becoming one of the largest landowners in Chile’s Patagonia region. Their forestry and ranching companies now occupy vast stretches of southern Chile, and impoverished Mapuches live on the margins of their properties.

State of Siege in Vilcun over Death of Estate Owner

January 4th, 2013

Chilean Police launches grand police operative in the township of Cautín, especially within the area of Yeupeko, entering into various communities such as Juan Catrilaf, Yeupeko Katrileo, Juan Quintrupil, the area of Natre, Llamuco etc, after an action was carried out on the morning [of January 4th] against those responsible for the death of Matias Catrileo, the Luchsingers [wealthy family that owns land], usurpers of Mapuche territory.

A Mapuche community member was shot and detained, and is being charged for this action, held prisoner in Temuco Hospital. The Prosecutor in charge, Alberto Chifelle, solicited the extension of various arrests to 7 days and the absolute reservation of the investigation for six months.

There have been numerous confrontations in some communities, since territorial control impedes the police from raiding Mapuche Territory.

The Chilean President has declared an implicit State of Siege in the area, and pointed out the increase of military presence, calling for 84 additional officers [now 400], armoured vehicles, and a new helicopter. He also confirmed his request to the Director of the National Intelligence Agency (ANI) to seek out “useful” information from the Armed Forces to “increase effectiveness and efficiency against terrorism.” Moreover, the renewed application of the Antiterrorist Law will not only mean the amplification of police powers, but also increased number of arrests and set-ups against our Warriors and communities, as was the case previously, therefore we should expect a greater repressive attack.

Militarization does NOT Intimate Us

Despite the grand police deployment in the area of Cautín, Weichafes [Warriors] of the area in conflict have occupied this afternoon have occupied the Estate of the Puig family, usurpers of our territory.  The Estate remains currently occupied, however we anticipate a prompt police intervention through land and air. A confrontation is expected in the hours of the afternoon, since the reclamation is said to be indefinite.

The Mapuche People Do Not Twist their Arm

In the same way when a police officer died in Chekenko, the Chilean State is placing all of its efforts into mobilizing a great police and military contingent in the area. We also see how racism has become the centre of commentary of the estate owners in the area calling for what seems like an actual Mapuche hunt, and of course the government ran to save its partners, those that have not understood to leave Wallmapu.

The war that the Chilean State has maintained against our Mapuche Nation has been carried out for over 130 years and during that time there have been thousands of murdered Mapuche. Ever since the military occupation of Wallmapu in 1861, the Mapuche People have struggled to recover its independence through any means possible, but things have worsened rather than improved.

They have killed thousands of our brothers, Lemun, Catrileo, Collio; these have been the latest of our martyrs killed in this long genocidal war.  However, we do not expect the Chilean State to bring justice to these deaths; it did not nor will it ever bring justice. Therefore justice is in our hands in reclaiming our territory, reconstructing our ancient Wallmapu with independence and sovereignty that our ancestors had before the invasion.

País Mapuche

Translated and Distributed by:

The Women’s Coordinating Committee for a Free Wallmapu [Toronto]

Posted on January 5, 2013, in Defending Territory and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. internationalsolidarity

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