Chilean President and businessman Sebastian Piñera visited the Araucania region, where a Mapuche man was shot and killed by police on Nov. 14. In a press conference, the president showed his support for Chile's police and stressed the special operations groups known as the Jungle Command will remain in Mapuche territory.
"The special operations group will continue because the presence of Carabineros (police) is needed," he said.
Camilo Catrillanca, a 24-year-old father and husband, was killed by members of the special operations group, commonly known as Jungle Command, which has been criticized for targeting Indigenous people.
Camilo was driving his tractor along with a 15-year-old boy when Carabineros shot against them despite the lack of threat to life. Police officers said they came under fire to justify shooting at the two Mapuches but they were also found responsible for destroying the video recording of the incident.
"Beyond the mistakes that can be made by a few Carabineros, who are always going to be sanctioned, the work of Carabineros de Chile (...) is to protect our lives, often even risking their own," Piñera said at a press conference.
The state murder of Catrillanca, the 16th Mapuche murdered at the hands of state security forces since the return to democracy in 1990, caused a national uproar with Chileans across the country joining in protests to demand justice for Camilo and accountability for the police and state authorities. They have demanded the Jungle Command to be dismantled and the resignation of Interior Minister Andres Chadwick.
President Piñera's role in Catrillanca's murder has also been raised. Piñera is accused not only of fueling narratives that depict Mapuches struggling to recover their ancestral lands as "terrorists" but also of strengthening dictatorship-era anti-terrorism legislation that has been used to prosecute Mapuche activists.
"We will persecute, with all the force and rigor of the rule of law, those violent and terrorists who want to impose their ideas by force and are unwilling to subject themselves to the game and rule of democracy," Piñera warned in his address.
For Marcelo Catrillanca, Camilo's father, Piñera's visit "adds more fuel to the fire." In an interview with Dinamo he said on Saturday they will respond to the Chilean state as a "Mapuche nation" and denounced 24-hour vigilance against his family through a drone. Marcelo also explained they have filed a lawsuit in the case and insisted they demand the end of the Jungle Command.