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  • FILE PHOTO: A Mapuche indigenous activist argues with riot policemen during a protest demanding justice for Camilo Catrillanca, an indigenous Mapuche man who was shot in the head during a police operation, in Santiago, December 14, 2018.

    FILE PHOTO: A Mapuche indigenous activist argues with riot policemen during a protest demanding justice for Camilo Catrillanca, an indigenous Mapuche man who was shot in the head during a police operation, in Santiago, December 14, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 31 December 2018
Opinion

It's still unknown if the death of Juan de Dios Mendoza Lebu is connected to a violent eviction by the Carabineros.

A Mapuche leader has been found dead in Ercilla, Araucania, as communities reported a violent eviction by the Chilean police against activists trying to recover their ancestral lands, but it's still unknown if the two incidents are connected.

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Just as the rest of the country prepared for the New Year celebrations, the Chilean police violently evicted Mapuche activists who were in the process of recovering ancestral territories in Ercilla, Araucania, leaving a handful of injured and arrested. 

The Longko Juan de Dios Mendoza Lebu, from the Raquem Pillan community, was found dead in the area between the roads that connect the Juan Collio and Colonia Rodriguez communities. Local news sites are reporting that the body showed marks of violence, but no independent source has confirmed if there's any connection between the death and the activities of the police. Local prosecutors are investigating the death.

Local and Mapuche media outlets reported the arrival of Chilean Group of Especial Operations (GOPE or Carabineros) Monday afternoon, who blocked Route 5 in the Victoria and Pailahueque points to prepare for the eviction.

Mapuche leaders (Longkos) called for the occupation of territory on Thursday, which they claim was seized by large landowners, loggers and the municipality, to recover their ancestral lands and protest the death of Camilo Catrillanca at the hands of Carabineros. The communities, led by the Lof Rankilko, occupied seven territories in Ercilla, Malleco province.

Some members of Chilean society described the action as “terrorism” and applauded the security forces’ reaction.

The communities denounced the Carabineros actions, who also evicted the Huiñako Millao territory on Monday afternoon. The use of live fire has not been verified.

The Mapuche media organization Radio Kurruf reported at least five injured by pellets and several arrested. They had reported the arrival of 20 vehicles transporting carabineros and a helicopter flying over the Coñomil Epuleo community.

Near Victoria, the Autonomous Community of Kalhueke took over a territory they claim is part of the 1,000 hectares seized by the “settler” Victor Maier.

In a statement published earlier on Monday, the Mapuche Communities of Malleco in Resistance warned about a possible eviction later on the day, as they say the mayor of Ercilla Jose Vilugron showed “no willingness to speak with the Mapuche communities,” making him responsible of any thing that could happen to them.

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The statement claims that Vilugron, collaborating with Interior Minister Andres Chadwick, has increased the Carabineros activity in the region aiming to protect the “interest of his plantation owners friends and the logging companies.”

The Lof Rankilko’s werken, or spokesperson, Rodrigo Curipan, said the occupation was agreed by Mapuche leaders as part of a process of territorial and political claims.

“The processes of land recovery continue. Rankilko opened a new front in this mobilization. Part of the community will be permanently installed in two territories, one seized by a forestal company and other by a private owner,” Curipan told Bio Bio on Sunday.

One of the mentioned territories is owned by the Mininco Forestal Company and the other will be used for a landfill.

The Lof Rankilko is also protesting at the Ercilla Townhall, demanding the resignation of Vilugron.

The Chilean government had announced that the Carabineros would reduce their activity in the region after the violent murder of Catrillanca in October, shot dead in the back of his head while driving a tractor.

Members of the Coñomil Epuleo and Huañaco Millao communities have been targeted by Carabineros in the past.

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