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Santiago: University students stage a “direct action” against government forces to protest the killing of an elderly Mapuche farmer by State security forces while trying to forcible displace the Mapuche in an attempt to illegally confiscate their land. Students are also bringing attention to the fact that the situation in the Araucania and Bío-Bío regions remain extremely volatile.
The Mapuche Indians live predominately in Southern Chile and make up approximately 85% of the indigenous population. Many of the displaced indigenous are demanding restitution of lands that are being illegally appropriated for “infrastructure projects” by the state and foreign investors. Ben Emmerson, the UN's special rapporteur on Human Rights and counter-terrorism stated that the “Chilean police were guilty of a systematic use of excessive force" against the Mapuche. His report dictates that the State had repeatedly discriminated against the Mapuche and “used anti-terrorism legislation against them in a confused and arbitrary fashion that has resulted in real injustice including stigmatizing and de- legitimizing of the Mapuche territorial demands and protests.”
While marginalization and discrimination by the Chilean State against the Mapuche extend back to the 19th century, the Pinochet military dictatorship* (1973-1990) made matters worse by giving their land away to big forest and hydroelectric enterprises. These projects have displaced entire communities, desecrated and uprooted ancient burial grounds and endangered the region’s bio-diversity.
While the post-dictatorship governments have implemented social assistance and cultural recognition policies, they have continued the economic policies put in place under the dictatorship and have criminalized social protests by sections of the Mapuche community. As Emmerson’s report cited, peaceful protests continue to be violently disrupted by state security forces creating a permanent climate of fear and repression in Mapuche communities.
*The military dictatorship of Chile (1973-1990), an authoritarian military government headed by General Augusto Pinochet, was established after the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende was overthrown by a CIA-backed military coup on September 11, 1973.
During the 17-year reign of terror over 3,400 were killed or disappeared; 40,000 were tortured and/or imprisoned and 200,000 Chileans were forced into exile. See also the “Plan Condor” notes in the “Argentina” section. The systematic human rights violations committed by the military under General Pinochet included gruesome acts of physical and sexual abuse, as well as psychological warfare.