Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on Tuesday declared a state of emergency and deployed troops to two southern regions where clashes between the indigenous Mapuche and security forces have occurred. The Mapuche people demand that their ancestral land be returned and given the right to self-determination.
“We decided to declare a state of emergency in four southern provinces, the Biobio region and Araucania, and deploy troops to help control the “serious disturbance of public order” there,” Pinera said.
The far-right and billionaire president addressed the nation’s people on a controversial national holiday. October 12 is Columbus Day, marking the “discovery” of the Americas by Christopher Columbus. This day is seen as a disaster by many Native peoples across America because of the colonization that followed.
Pinera, 71, said the four provinces experienced “repeated acts of violence related to drug trafficking, terrorism and organized crime by armed groups,” and that innocent civilians and police were killed in the violence.
The state of emergency lasts 15 days but can be extended in the provinces of Biobio and Arauco in the Biobio region, and in Malleco and Cautin in La Araucania.
The Mapuche are the largest indigenous tribe in Chile, accounting for 1.7 million of the country’s 19 million population. Most of them live in the south. Their leaders demanded that land owned by agricultural and logging companies be returned to them. (ka/rs)