November 2002
Chilean police killed Mapuche activist Alex Lemun.
Socialist President Ricardo Lagos expressed regret for Lemún’s death.

Edmundo Alex Lemún Saavedra, a 17-year-old indigenous Mapuche activist, died on November 12 in a clinic in the city of Temuco, capital of La Araucanía (Region IX) in southern Chile. Lemún had been in a coma since November 7, when he was hit in the head with a bullet during a clash with agents from the militarized Carabineros police, who were trying to forcibly remove a group of Mapuches occupying ancestral lands on the Santa Alicia estate—claimed by the Empresa Forestal Mininco lumber company—in Angol Province, near Ercilla. Lemún was a member of the Arauco Malleco Coordinating Committee; his death was the first to arise from longstanding land conflicts in the region.

According to a ballistics test done by the Investigations Police, Lemún was killed by a type of high-caliber steel bullet used by Carabineros, fired from an “antiriot” rifle. Pablo Ortega, the attorney for Lemún’s family, accused authorities of subsequently trying to hide the ballistics evidence that proved the responsibility of Carabineros in the shooting. Officially, the government of Socialist President Ricardo Lagos expressed regret for Lemún’s death, and announced that a special investigator would be assigned to look into the case. (El Mostrador (Chile) 11/13/02, 11/14/02, 11/15/02; La Tercera (Chile) 11/13/02, 11/14/02, 11/15/02; Agencia Latinoamericana de Información (ALAI) 11/14/02; El Nuevo Herald (Miami) 11/13/02 from EFE)

Angry Mapuches and their supporters protested Lemún’s death with a march in Santiago on November 13. The march ended with some 20 arrests after demonstrators smashed windows of businesses, including those of the telecommunications company Entel and of Smarkom, an affiliate of Endesa, which is building the Ralco dam on the Biobio River against Mapuche opposition. “It’s the destruction of material goods which most hurts the winkas (nonindigenous people), it doesn’t hurt them when people die,” shouted one woman as she handed rocks to the youths to throw at windows. (EM 11/14/02; ALAI 11/14/02)

Over the night of November 13 into the early morning of November 14, hooded individuals burned buildings in three arson attacks in Biobio (Region VIII), just north of La Araucanía, allegedly in retaliation for Lemún’s death. On the Lleu Lleu estate, where the owners are in a dispute with local Mapuche residents over land rights, two buildings were burned. The estate has suffered 27 previous arson attacks; none of its buildings now remain standing. On the Antulafquen farm, unidentified individuals burned three summer cabins owned by executives of the Forestal Bosques Arauco lumber company. Facilities at the Tirúa airport were also burned. The Interior Ministry ordered the Concepción Appeals Court to apply antiterrorism laws in investigating the attacks. (EM 11/14/02, 11/15/02; LT 11/14/02, 11/15/02)

On November 14, some 500 Mapuches took part in a 15-kilometer funeral procession for Lemún in Ercilla. Security for the march was provided by eight hooded Mapuches, armed with sticks, who searched participants carefully. (EM 11/15/02; LT 11/15/02)

In other news, violence broke out on November 15 during a march in Santiago organized by a collective in support of political prisoners. Demonstrators reportedly set up barricades and attacked police with Molotov bombs as the march reached its destination, the University of Santiago. Police lobbed tear gas and arrested nine people. (EM 11/15/02)