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  • Demonstrators in Chile protest against police killing of Mapuche Camilo Catrillanca on Nov. 14.

    Demonstrators in Chile protest against police killing of Mapuche Camilo Catrillanca on Nov. 14. | Photo: Reuters

Published 11 December 2018
Opinion

Chile's Congress will question Interior Minister Andres Chadwick over his role in the murder of Camilo Catrillanca and the investigations on the case.  

An appeals court in southern Chile reversed Monday a preventive detention order for two policemen involved in the murder of Mapuche man Camilo Catrillanca as Congressional hearings against Interior Minister Andres Chadwick begin Tuesday.

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Braulio Valenzuela and Patricio Sepulveda, accused of obstruction of justice in Catrillanca’s case, are being ordered to house arrest. Two other police remain detained.

Father to Camilo and Mapuche werken, Marcelo Catrillanca, said the court’s decision confirms once again that there is no sense of justice for the Mapuche people. "Justice for us Mapuche does not exist. We will appeal the decision so that … these police officers are put back into custody," he told reporters.

The ruling took place a day before members of Chile’s House of Representative begin questioning Interior Minister Andres Chadwick over Catrillanca's muder by the specialized state police force, Jungle Command. The 24-year-old Mapuche man was killed on Nov. 14, prompting nation-wide protests against police brutality and the criminalization of Mapuche's struggle to recover heir ancestral lands..

Emilia Nuyado Ancapichun, Chile’s first female Indigenous woman to serve in Congress, will lead the questioning that begins at 4 p.m., local. She pushed for the formation of the special committee that was created on Nov. 21 to investigate the state’s role in the shooting and killing of the unarmed Catrillanca.

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Indigenous leaders and activists across Chile have been demanding Chadwick’s resignation since the murder took place nearly a month ago. They argue Chadwick is responsible for the police's use of excessive force against Mapuches who want the return of their native lands, stolen by loggers and the government decades ago.

The minister is also being accused of the major irregularities in the investigation of Catrillanca’s murder. He has changed the state’s version of what happened that day.

At first, the minister announced that four Jungle Command police shot at Catrillanca in self-defense. It was later revealed that the young Mapuche was unarmed when he was shot by state forces. Police also said there were no video recordings, but later admitted they had destroyed a video memory card, arguing it contained "private" pictures. Days after it was revealed that the special police command had been monitoring Catrillanca for a year prior to his murder.

According to the House, the session, "hopes to gain information of state orders that justified the authorization of acts by the national police in (the Araucania region), particularly by the Jungle Command. The state delegates also hope to understand "the violation of rights against the Mapuche, particularly of children and adolescents in Araucania on behalf of the police."

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President Sebastian Piñera, who has been called ‘a Pinochet’ by some Mapuche leaders, pulled the commando forces out of the region in light of the murder but replaced them with other anti-riot national police forces. This is Piñera’s third minister called to testify before legislators since the president took office last March.

"I assume a lot of responsibility (by questioning Chadwick) because we are facing a minister who has great economic power. We hope he will assume the same responsibility." representative Nuyado told reporters Monday.

She added that people must know the “precise details” of the incident “in order to make peace.”

Piñera’s and Chadwick's popularity ratings have fallen since Nov. 14. The administration is trying to respond by creating two departments within the national police force, one for gender and another for human rights . The announcement was made on Dec. 10.  

The right-wing billionaire Piñera also announced the Plan Araucania over the weekend which looks to create more dialogue and economic development in the region. "Regarding the Araucania, we will reinforce the Araucania Plan in its four pillars: dialogue and agreements, economic and social development, revaluation and recognition of the Indigenous peoples," Piñera stated.

It’s unclear how long the Congressional hearing will last or if any other government official will be called to take the stand.

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