August 11,2009
Chilean Authorities Investigate New Attack, Land Occupations.

SANTIAGO – Authorities in the La Araucania region in southern Chile are investigating a new house-burning and the occupation of lands in some areas affected by the Mapuche conflict, police said.

An empty vacation house near Lleu Lleu lake in the municipality of Cañete, some 600 kilometers (about 370 miles) from Santiago, was set on fire intentionally on Sunday morning, police said.

The house was owned by farmer Rafael Pincheira Santander and, according to Cañete prosecutor Luis Morales, so far there are no clues as to who the arsonists are and no group has claimed responsibility.

The attack came after a truck was burned Saturday on the outskirts of Ercilla, a town near Lleu Lleu lake, but in that case flyers were found at the scene saying that the Coordinadora Arauco Malleco, or CAM, claimed responsibility.

Mapuche Indians occupied two properties in the municipality of Cunco, some 700 kilometers (about 435 miles) from Santiago, on Sunday morning, police said.

Residents told media outlets that the occupations were a demonstration against the lack of response by the government to demands for the land, which they consider to be part of their tribal heritage.

The Mapuche conflict started up in the 1990s in the area, where some indigenous communities have been demanding that certain lands they claim for their own but which are now the property of logging and farming companies be turned over to them.

The government has chosen to buy land to give to the Indians, but the process has not transpired as expected and more radical groups have resorted to violent acts as pressure tactics.

The authorities have applied the state security and anti-terrorist laws against the local Indian residents who have been detained, while the political right has claimed – so far without proof – that foreign terrorist groups are behind the more radicalized Mapuches. EFE