Mapuche communities have been calling for urgent measures to recover their ancestral lands which are now in the hands of private companies
A total of 18 trucks have been set on fire in southern La Araucania, the poorest region of Chile, and the scene of frequent violent confrontations between Mapuche communities and workers in private companies.
The vehicles, which belonged to the firms of Lucchetti and CCU, were attacked in the early hours of Saturday morning by a group of hooded men according to the military police.
The vans were parked arounf 10 kilometers away from the city of Temuco, in the sector of Pichiquepe.
At least 13 were completely destroyed.
Administrative authorities from the region said they found a note at the scene referring to the Mapuche struggle of the Weichan Auka Mapu.
“We believe that some of their members are in prison, and that could be one of the reasons (why) this is occurring,” said La Araucania's prefect Nora Barrientos.
Since 2013, the Weichan Auka Mapu collective has been mobilizing against the forestry and agriculture firms exploiting their ancestral territories.
Truck drivers demanded an emergency meeting with the government in order to boost security in the region.
Mapuches occupy only 5 percent of their ancestral lands located in La Araucania, representing a total of 600,000 hectares and only a sixth of the lands owned by private forestry firms. There are around 700,000 Mapuche in Chile, out of a total of 16 million citizens. Poverty among the Mapuche on average is double that of the rest of the population.
Several Mapuche activists have been killed in clashes with the military police, and many remain in prison, charged with offenses brought under a controversial anti-terrorism bill.
The legislation is a remnant of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. It has been used for many years against the Mapuche people, receiving condemnation from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2014 and the United Nations in 2013, which labeled it “discriminatory.”
It allows Chilean authorities to arrest suspects without bail before trial, to condemn them on the ground of anonymous testimonies, and to give them higher penalties for crimes.