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  • Protests have erupted in Chile since the police killing of an Indigenous man.

    Protests have erupted in Chile since the police killing of an Indigenous man. | Photo: EFE

Published 16 November 2018
Opinion

As police repressed protesters in the streets, Chile's president said he'll look into the shooting of an Indigenous man that sparked the demonstrations.

Amid violent police crackdowns against Chileans protesting the murder of a Mapuche man, President Sebastian Piñera promised Thursday to investigate the fatal shooting of Camilo Catrillanca by members of Chile's Jungle Command.

RELATED: 
Chilean Police Shoots and Kills Mapuche Man

"The government will spare no means to get to the truth of what happened, and has requested the exclusive deployment of a prosecutor to this case," Piñera tweeted.

Widespread protests denouncing police violence across Chile were violently repressed despite the government's stated interest in an investigation.

On Wednesday police special forces killed 24-year-old Camilo Catrillanca. Chilean officials said the murder was an accident and that it occurred when they responded to calls denouncing a car theft. However, many don't understand why a special task force was sent to respond to a car theft situation. 

According to Police General Enrique Monras, head of the Santiago West zone, around 3,000 people demonstrated in Chile’s capital, Santiago -- 40 were detained and 39 arrested. Nearly 50 others were arrested in Concepcion, the capital of the Biobio region.

Protestors reportedly burned bicycles leased by an online application to the city and used them to block streets. In other areas, buildings were set on fire. Police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse protesters in the capital city.

"Open battle in Santiago de Chile over Mapuche death,"

teleSUR correspondent, Paola Dragnic tweets.

Two days earlier, Camilo Catrillanca, a member of the Mapuche community and grandson of the Lonko (community leader) Juan Catrillanca, was shot dead during a military operation in Temucuicui, Ercilla in the La Araucania region.

Around 200 police entered the area firing indiscriminately the evening of Nov 14.; Catrillanca was shot in the head. He was later taken to a health center where he died. Five others were injured.

Police allegedly came under attack from automatic gunfire during an operation to detain a suspected gang of car thieves in a rural community.

"We reaffirm the right of police to pursue crimes and their right to defend themselves when attacked," President Piñera said in a tweet.

Human rights organizations have called on the Chilean government to investigate and punish those responsible for the murder.  

"Chile must ensure that no one loses their lives in this way and immediately investigate these facts,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, regional director for Amnesty International. “The persecution and criminalization against the Mapuche people must stop immediately."

Opposition parties denounced the shooting as evidence of Piñera's "militarization" of the Mapuche region.

"They show the face of Camilo Catrillanca, killed by Chilean policeman as a demonstration was repressed."
 

Socialist deputy Emilia Nuyado, of Mapuche origin, has been appointed by the opposition party to interrogate Interior Minister Andres Chadwick for the killing.

The Mapuche are an Indigenous people in South-central Chile and Southwestern Argentina. Making up about nine percent of the Chilean population, the Mapuche have resisted conquest by Spanish colonists until the 19th century when they were confined to small areas. Much of their land was sold to forestry companies and farmers.

The Mapuche have been violently repressed by the Jungle Command, a special force created by President Piñera to allegedly combat “rural violence.” The group reportedly trained in Colombian jungles and are meant to prevent and respond to “terrorism” in Mapuche areas.

However, they are equipped with high-tech and tactical vehicles and are considered a means to suppress Mapuche claims to their southern ancestral territory and the freedom to express their cultural identity.

A communique issued by Mapuche activists in the community of Antonio Peñeipil de Galvarino, announced "three days of rebellion".

"This death only reaffirms the just fight of our people for our usurped lands which today remain in the hands of forestry companies, the descendants of colonizers, tourism companies, hydroelectric plants, salmon producers and individuals who have irregularly seized possession," the Mapuche activists said in a statement.

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