On November 14, a newly created special “anti-terrorist” unit of the Chilean police known as Comando Jungla entered the Mapuche traditional community of Temukuikui near the town of Ercilla in the Araucanía region, about 370 miles south of Santiago. Claiming to be in pursuit of local car thieves, the operation involved hundreds of police officers with two helicopters. At the end of the operation, a local boy, Camilo Marcelo Catrillanca Marín, was found dead. According to police reports, he was shot in the head while driving a tractor. After Catrillanca’s death, a ket witness, the 15-year-old boy who was at his side at that moment, was illegally arrested and severely beaten by police during the arrest.
Catrillanca’s death is only the latest in a series of actions by the Chilean state that have defended the forestry industry and other firms exploiting southern Chile’s natural resources. The forestry industry argues they have legally bought or rented large tracts of land in this part of the country.
Indigenous communities, however, have complained for years about the negative environmental impacts of their logging activities. Among other effects, it results in soil erosion of indigenous crops and contaminates livestock food supplies.
Forestry firms hired their own security guards, but in recent years Carabineros de Chile, the national police force, has stepped in to protect forestry companies while being accused of persecuting indigenous activists and falsifying evidence against them.
Journalist Francisco Marín wrote: “The murder of Catrillanca joins a series of other similar incidents, in which carabineros have killed unarmed Mapuche, as happened with Alex Lemún Saavedra (2002), Matías Catrileo Quezada (2008) and Jaime Mendoza Collío (2009).
Although justice proved that the police versions to justify them were false, all those responsible were condemned to low sentences.”
Excluding Catrillanca, according to the indigenous newspaper Werkén.cl, since 2001 the number of Mapuche activists murdered stands at 14.
Last year, the Red por la Defensa de la Infancia Wallmapu (Network for the Defense of Childhood Wallmapu) noted that more than 40 Mapuche children have been mistreated by police, including suffering gunshot wounds.
To make matters worse, the Chilean state in the past two decades has commenced to use the Anti-Terrorist Law (specifically Law 18.314) against the Mapuche. Established under the Pinochet dictatorship in 1984, the law facilited the crushing of political dissidence. The United Nations have condemned the use of the Anti-Terrorist Law against the Mapuche.