Friday, 14 August 2009
Unrest Continues In Chile Despite President’s Call For “Dialogue”

An initial autopsy on the body of Jaime Mendoza Collío, a Mapuche man who died early this week during a confrontation with police, suggests the 24-year-old activist was shot in the back.

The findings cast doubt on claims by Chile’s Carabineros (uniformed police) that officer Patricio Jara Muñoz shot the victim in self
defense. Carabineros claim Jara Muñoz was ambushed and struck by buckshot before dispatching his weapon. A witness interviewed by El Austral offered a different version of the story, saying Mendoza Collío and his companions carried sticks but no firearms (PT, Aug. 13).

The victim was part of a group of some 50 Mapuches who early Wednesday morning tried to occupy a Region IX farm over which they claim ancestral ownership. According to news reports, heavily-armed Carabineros – under orders to remove the Mapuches – advanced onto the property at approximately 3 p.m. The shooting took place soon after.

Jara Muñoz is currently in military custody. Because the Carabineros are a branch of the armed forces, disciplinary matters are handled internally, by military tribunals rather than civilian courts. Military prosecutors have five days to decide whether to charge the officer for using unnecessary force resulting in death.

The killing has escalated already heightened tensions between Chilean authorities and Mapuches, the country’s largest indigenous group.

Early Thursday morning a group of individuals, presumably Mapuches, burned three sheds on a ranch near Pailahuén, also in Region IX. Later in the day, some 30 hooded individuals briefly occupied a ranch in Cañete, Region VIII. In nearby Concepción, students held a demonstration in support of the Mapuches. Carabineros arrested 15 of the protestors, the daily La Tercera reported. Protests also took place in Santiago, Valdivia (Region XIV) and in the Region IX capital of Temuco.

In Santiago, President Michelle Bachelet addressed the situation by calling for dialogue, which she said is the “only way to resolve the legitimate demands of the Mapuche people.” She described Mendoza Collío’s death as “something painful and regrettable.”

But on Friday, indigenous spokesman José Naín, who represents some 20 different Mapuche organizations, said the situation is already out of control.

“We’re powerless,” he told Radio ADN. “This is now out of hand. As leaders, we no don’t have control of the situation any more. Obviously people are going to do what their emotions tell them to do, which is certainly dangerous.”

Mendoza Collío, a former Army conscript who leaves behind a wife and four-year-old daughter, is the third Mapuche to die at the hands of Carabineros in the past six years. In November 2002, 18-year-old activist Alex Lemún was shot in the head during an attempted land occupation. He died five days later. Police killed 22-year-old Matías Catrileo under similar circumstances in January 2008 (PT, Jan. 3, 2008).

By Patagonia Times Staff