Gonzalo Bañez

Gabriel Boric militarizes southern Chile: the 5 keys to the escalation of the Mapuche conflict

On what a sharp turn means for the president Gabriel BoricChili announced a state of emergency in part of the south due to the growing wave of violence in recent months by groups claiming Mapuche principles.

After a tense meeting with the parties of the ruling coalition, the Minister of the Interior -Izkia Siches- and the Minister of Defense -Maya Fernández- announced that they decided to militarize the roads in the region of the Araucania and the provinces of Arauco and Biobío.

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The same state of emergency applied Sebastien Pinera when he was president in order to contain the violence in the south. During the election campaign Boric strongly criticized this measure and when he assumed his mandate, he directly decided to revoke it. Since March, the military forces they no longer had control of the routes.

Boric delayed his decision so as not to leave its march and its counter-march so exposed in the face of growing social pressure due to insecurity throughout the country, unprecedented inflation in a country that had become unaccustomed to rising prices and increasingly repeated acts of violence in the south of the country.

A measure giving more power to the military

The Chilean constitution – which is being revised by the Constitutional Convention – provides for different emergency mechanisms in different situations. One of them is the Exception Status that the Chilean government announced yesterday and officially presented today.

As explained by the Minister of the Interior, who is very close to President Boric, this new measure will be “limited” to military control on the roads and the main access roads to the Araucanía region and the province of Biobío.

The Army will respond to a Chief of National Defense appointed specifically for this situation –will be Jorge Parga and Edward Slater– and will be deployed, in principle, for 15 days. This is the scheduled time for the state of exception, although later can be extended as it happened last year.

There will be checks and checkpoints with military vehicles at the main entrances and uniformed officers will have the authority to react to situations they deem risky or threatening. The publication of the detail of the resolution is missing.

Response to increasing violence

In what some Chilean media -like La Tercera- they call it an “ideological defeat” of Boric, the Chilean president had to advance in the application of this measure by the rising wave of violence which is shaking all of Chile, but especially the south of the country.

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Consulted for this article, from the Government of Araucanía, they have detailed that in recent months there were between 15 and 20 attacks by violent groups in different cities and towns in the region per day.

Most of these attacks, they explained, are directed against logging companies, farmers and trucks circulating in the region. The attackers claim the principles of the Mapuche community and justify their actions “because these are areas that have been occupied” by indigenous peoples.

Armed resistance and denunciation of “political prisoners”

It’s been a week now, and with the growing rumor that there will be a state of emergency in Araucania, one of the Mapuche radical groups called for an “armed resistance” before the decision of the national government.

It was so Hector Llaïtulhead of Arauco-Malleco Coordinator (CAM) declared: “Prepare the forces, organize the armed resistance for the autonomy, for the territory and the autonomy of the Mapuche nation.”

Héctor Llaitul, one of the Mapuche radical leaders, called for a "armed resistance" (Source: Emol).
Héctor Llaitul, one of the Mapuche radical leaders, called for “armed resistance” (Source: Emol).

This is in addition to a march called this Wednesday in the Temuco prison, where dozens of recently detained people accused of various acts of vandalism and violence in southern Chile are housed. They demand to be released and considered “political prisoners”.

Political pressure on Boric

It is important that the government has taken this stepalthough 50 days have passed and we have lost precious time to control the violent situation,” he assured. Luciano Rivas Stepke the Governor of Araucania. This is a reflection of the opposition pressure on Boric.

Along the same lines, in dialogue with NT the deputy of Araucanía Miguel Mellado Suazo estimated that “there was a misdiagnosis on the part of the government” although he celebrated the latter decision.

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He also considered that “it will be worse if there is no effective shortcut with the armed forces”, while asking to “stop” this situation as soon as possible because “sthey are not going to end up facing chileans with chileans”.

Drop in Boric’s approval

A few weeks ago it became known that the approval of the Chilean President collapsed about 35% when he had not yet completed two months in office. It was a fast and steep fall who responded, according to experts, to different situations.

First, the pocket. Last week, we learned that the inflation Chile’s April was 1.4% and the iyear-on-year, it reached 10.5%. Very high rates for a country that had become accustomed to living almost without price increases in recent years.

Gabriel Boric militarizes southern Chile: the 5 keys to the escalation of the Mapuche conflict

This, added to repeated acts of insecurity have increased the uneasiness of the population. Robberies and assaults have been repeated in the Santiago metropolitan area in recent months, prompting the government to tighten security in many neighborhoods.

In part, public opinion had called for more measures to stop this nascent wave which could spiral out of control, they said. This state of exception attempts to contain and improve a presidential image that was showing slight signs of recovery.


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