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News > Latin America

Chile: Two Mapuche Leaders Detained, Criminalization Continues

  • Hundreds of Mapuche people protesting in Santiago in support of the Machi Celestino Cordova. July 22, 2018.

    Hundreds of Mapuche people protesting in Santiago in support of the Machi Celestino Cordova. July 22, 2018. | Photo: EFE

Published 15 August 2018

Alberto Curamil and Alvaro Millalen were detained after an anonymous caller accused them of being behind a botched bank robbery in April.

Two Mapuche leaders have been detained after their homes were raided on Tuesday, accused of participating in an armed assault in April, in what their communities claim is systematic political persecution.


'Terrorism': How Chile's Mapuche Struggle Has Been Criminalized

On Tuesday, about 100 military police officers raided the home of Longko Alberto Curamil, leader of the Mapuche Territorial Alliance (ATM), in Radalko Lof. He was later detained in the city of Curacautin.

In a separate incident, Alvaro Millalen, from the Lof Pewenko, was simultaneously detained on the same charges after his home was also raided. Both men are now being held in pre-trial detention.

The operation was ordered by prosecutor Luis Torres Gutierrez, who accused the Mapuche leaders of robbing a social benefit bank in Galvarino on April 24 and taking hostages to secure their escape.

The same prosecutor also led the investigation of brothers Pablo and Benito Trangol, who were charged with a June 2016 arson attack on an evangelical temple in the Padre Las Casas commune, in the Araucania region. A third brother, Ariel, was cleared of all charges.

Torres says an anonymous source recognized the leaders, prompting the prosecutor to order their arrest.

"I'm just coming out of the hearing at the Lautaro court and there's no evidence that proves the participation of Alvaro Millalen and our leader Alberto Curamil," Mijael Carbone, a member of the ATM, told 24 horas.

"We will show that at the end of this investigation, because where know where Alberto Curamil and Alvaro Millalen were at the time of the events," Carbone concluded, describing the scenario as another "legal set-up" against the Mapuche resistance.

Organized communities denounced the detention as systematic political persecution aiming to discredit the resistance of the ATM, the Longko and other Mapuche communities fighting to defend their territories against the invasive practices of the Chilean state and private companies.

Curamil's Lof Mapuxawun and the ATM insist the Longko is innocent of all charges, but has been implicated because of his social position in the community as Longko and the silversmith (Ruxafe) of Caceres.

They also claim Curamil was incarcerated for taking part in a protest against large-scale hydroelectric projects and logging in his community's territory; his support for the Machi Celestino Cordova, and his recognized role as his Lof's Longko.

"What the right-wing government wants is to discredit the Mapuche social and political struggle of the Longko, the ATM and different communities resisting against the invasion," the statement continues.

During the failed April 24 bank robbery, a security guard sustained a gun shot wound when the assailants stole about 80 million Chilean pesos (US$120,000), which they then dropped as they made their escape. Two people were arrested.

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