Chile’s Military Police (Carabineros) evicted Tuesday 303 poor families residing in the Frei Bonn Camp, the biggest squatter area in the city of Calama, in the Antofagasta region.
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Over the past six years, 329 adults and 440 children lived in precarious homes, most of which were built with cardboard, wood and other recycled materials.
To avoid being evicted, some squatters chained themselves to their homes, others decided to crucify themselves and some confronted Carabineros, who used heavy machinery to break the perimeter fence that families had installed around their camp.
During the military-police operation, the Frei Bonn inhabitants unsuccessfully requested the authorities not to evict them because their children would be left homeless in the harsh winter in Chile.
Nevertheless, the Chilean authorities justified the eviction by arguing the camp represented a public health risk and promising that families would be relocated to other more suitable places.
"In this place a housing project will be built, which is what must be done. The camps, without any doubt, are a risk for the families. Here we already had a fire and a sanitary emergency. What we have done today is to abide by a resolution of the landowner," the regional director of the Housing and Urbanization Service (Serviu) Rodrigo Saavedra said.
Today cruel eviction of the Frei Bonn Occupy in Calama, Chile. They are sent to the street in the middle of winter. Are we all part of Chile ???
The Frei Bonn squatter emerged six years ago when poor Chilean, Bolivian and Colombian families, who had received "no housing solution at all" from the authorities, began to occupy land in the western sector of Calama.
On March 16, 2013, they installed tents over there and announced they would not leave the place until they had their own homes.
"We all have the same need. We are all leasing or living with relatives. There are people who live in poverty on the Loa River banks," Juan Navarro said at the time and added that "not a single authority has gone there to ask if they have good health or water."
Chilean authorities Tuesday announced that the police operation will last three days until the municipal land is completely vacated.