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News > Chile

Chilean Police Sergeant Formally Charged With Mapuche Murder

  • Anti-national police protesters demand justice for slain Mapuche, Camilo Catrillanca. December 2018

    Anti-national police protesters demand justice for slain Mapuche, Camilo Catrillanca. December 2018 | Photo: Reuters

Published 21 February 2019

An ex-national police sargeant was charged with the murder of the young Indigenous man, Camilo Catrillanca, during a raid on the Mapuche community in southern Chile. 

Progress is being made in the case against the four former special national police force members in Chile suspected of killing 24-year Mapuche activist, Camilo Catrillanca. The young Indigenous man was shot and killed by a police agent while driving a tractor in his hometown of Temucuicui in the Arauncia province on Nov. 14, 2018.

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The main defendant in the murder case, Carlos Alarcon, ex-sergeant of the so-called Jungle Command unit of the national police force, was formally charged Wednesday with firing the bullet that killed Catrillanca. Alarcon, along with Raul Avila, charged as an accomplice, remain in preventive detention where they have been since the murder investigation got underway in mid-November.

The latest National Investigators of Chile (PDI) report regarding the case revealed Wednesday that Camilo was killed after being shot in the head by Alarcon.

The late Camilo’s father, Marcelo, was pleased by the court’s decision: "From the first moment, we said that we were going to get the truth. We knew that … the bullet went straight to kill, to kill another Mapuche," said Marcelo who has long been demanding the government’s demilitarization of the region that has intensified since President Sebastian Piñera took office in March 2018.

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Historically, Chilean armies wiped out 90 percent of the Indigenous Mapuche population within its territory, and by 1883 Chilean forces and farmers had taken control of all Mapuche lands. Many of the over 1.5 million Mapuche in Chile’s southern region are still protesting for return of their lands.

Braulio Valenzuela and Patricio Sepulveda, the other two dismissed police officers implicated in the assassination case that incited national protests against the special police force, remain under partial house arrest with bi-weekly check-ins by the authorities.

Camilo was killed in the middle of a police operation in the community of Temucuicui.

Around 200 Chilean anti-riot police members entered the town firing indiscriminately against the Mapuche three months ago, injuring five people in the operation. Catrillanca, the grandson of the Lonko (community leader) Juan Catrillanca, was shot in the back of the head. He was later taken to a health center where he died.

Former Jungle Command member, Raul Avila is accused of lying to prosecutors and hiding evidence. During an initial testimony Avila told investigators that he destroyed the memory card from his video chest cam from the incident because it contained ‘indecent’ footage.’

Avila later produced the video in December which indeed showed the ex-police members shot at Catrillanca then put a compress on the lower part of the victim’s head and left him on the ground.

Alcaron has publicly stated that he was forced by his superiors to give false testimony in the case to say that Catrillanca was armed. The body cam footage indicated the young Mapuche was notarmed.    

Minister Chadwick and former National Police General Hermes Soto were initially silent during the first hours after the murder, but then came with a statement saying that the police shot Catrillanca in self-defense.

Protests against the murder have since subsided, but for many months, opposition legislators have been calling for Chadwick to resign or for the president to dismiss him for grossly mishandling the case. Piñera has already replaced Soto as National Police commander.

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