Leaders from the Mapuche Indigenous community in southern Chile announced that they will travel to the capital Santiago to demand a meeting with the interior minister over an ongoing territorial conflict with local truck drivers.
The announcement comes after the truck drivers – in a 13 truck convoy – reached the capital last Thursday for their own government meeting to protest against alleged arson attacks by Indigenous rights activists.
The arrival lead to protests in the streets of Santiago over Mapuche land rights.
According to the group's leader Sergio Perez, the truck drivers handed a petition to the Interior Minister Jorges Burgos accusing the Mapuche community of committing violent acts against them and called on the government to end the “impunity.”
However, Mapuche leader Aucan Huilcaman said in order to truly address the conflict in the southern division of Araucania, the government needs to also hear from the Mapuche community.
“With the same willingness the truckers were received, the Mapuche will also have to be received. Otherwise, the country will know where the direction of this government is,” Huilcaman said.
At least 15 Indigenous leaders will travel to Santiago Sept. 1 to deliver the interior ministry a “proposal for a comprehensive solution” to the conflict between the Mapuche and local industry, said Huilcaman.
The indigenous leader added that mobilizations will continue in the two Araucania disctricts of Malleco and Cautin if the government refuses to see them.
The Mapuche community – Chile's largest Indigenous group – have long struggled with the state and local industry over land rights. The group is mainly located in Araucania, one of the country's poorest regions but also home to most of its forestry and paper industry.
The Mapuche struggle escalated in 2013 with a string of arson attacks against local truckers infringing on their territory.
The Chilean government has long been criticized for its inability to manage disputes over ancestral Indigenous lands, according to local news sources.