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News > Latin America

Chilean Police Shoots and Kills Mapuche Man

  • The Mapuche community and leaders have been persecuted using anti-terrorist laws.

    The Mapuche community and leaders have been persecuted using anti-terrorist laws. | Photo: EFE

Published 15 November 2018

Chile's Jungle Command killed a young Mapuche man, leading to widespread protests by the community denouncing police violence. 

Simultaneous demonstrations took place in various locations in Chile Wednesday to protest the murder of Camilo Catrillanca, a young member of the Mapuche community, at the hands of carabineros (national police) of the Jungle Command.


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Camilo was killed in the middle of a police operation in the community of Temucuicui, Ercilla, in La Araucania region. Chilean police entered the area firing indiscriminately against the Mapuche community during the evening of Nov. 14.

Around 200 police entered the area leaving five people injured. Catrillanca, the grandson of the Lonko (community leader) Juan Catrillanca, was shot in the head. He was later taken to a health center where he died.

"They let him die in Ercilla, he was not transferred to any hospital," said Vania Keipul. "Temucuicui is in mourning, our nation once again snatched from us... Enough, until when do we have to put up with so much?... Temucuicui resists before, now and always."

A group of 50 people demonstrated in front of La Moneda, Chile's presidential palace. During the demonstration, three protesters were detained and charged with generating disorder.

Hundreds of people demonstrated in front of the Legal Medical Service of Temuco and Ercilla’s office where Catrillanca died. A group of protesters also gathered at the Plaza de la Republica in the city of Valdivia to express their support for the Mapuche cause and to reject police brutality.

On Thursday, there were several clashes between Mapuche members and police forces. Minister Cecilia Perez is expected to visit Araucania Thursday. A national mobilization has been organized in protest of the killing and shooting. It is scheduled for 7:30 pm, local time.

Poster calling for people to gather at Plaza Italia in Santiago to protest the killing of Camilo Catrillanca. Photo: Twitter / @karlatoroi

Nibaldo Huenuman, the Mapuche leader in Santiago told Radio Cooperativa, "today we totally repudiate the action of the Jungle Command as well as the government and the police in charge... we ask for the resignation of all those responsible who today sent the force to repress our people in the communities."

The werken (a traditional authority for the Mapuche people) Jorge Huenchullan, of the autonomous community of Temucuicui, in the commune of Ercilla, said that this was the result of a shootout provoked by the "Jungle Command". The command was deployed to the area in July 2018.

The Jungle Command is part of a special force created by Chilean President Sebastian Piñera known as The Special Police Operation Group (GOPE) to allegedly fight “rural violence.” The group reportedly trained in Colombian jungles and are meant to prevent and respond to “terrorism” in Mapuche areas.

However, this force equipped with high-tech and tactical vehicles have been considered as a means to suppress Mapuche claims to their southern ancestral territory and the freedom to express their cultural identity.  

After the death of Camilo, opposition legislators wanted to hold a minute of silence in the Chamber of Deputies, however, their proposal was rejected by the government.

In reaction to the murder of Catrillanca, various human rights organizations have called on the Chilean government to investigate and punish those responsible for the murder. They also called for an end to anti-terror laws in Mapuche territories and the removal of militarized police from areas inhabited by the Indigenous population. 

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

President Sebastian Piñera had promised the government will “spare no means” in investigating the fatal shooting.

“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,” he said in a post on Twitter, adding “we reaffirm the right of police to pursue crimes and their right to defend themselves when attacked.”

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