15 February 2010
Chilean Court Agrees To Detain Mapuche Youth On Terrorism Charges
Written by James Fowler.

Three activists now held in wake of September 2009 arson attack.
A court in the southern city of Temuco (Region IX) on Friday agreed to keep a Mapuche youth charged under anti-terrorism laws in preventative custody afteundefinedr his arrest on Thursday.

Mapuche groups are involved in an on-going land struggle against local businesses and authorities in Chile's Araucania region (region IX).

Job Morales was arrested for an arson attack that occurred on September 11 last year. Over 360 hectares of land as well as property and machinery belonging to local Elsa Fernandez was torched during the attack. Police allege Morales was trying to flee the country when detained.

The court also ruled in favor of prosecutor Omar Merida to permit the ongoing detention of supposed Mapuche activists Jorge Cuyupan Niripil and Daniel Canio Tralcal, allegedly Morales’ accomplices in the attack.

Cuyupan was previously arrested over a break-in at a country estate in January last year and will face charges of arson and attempted homicide.

Tralcal stands accused of attacking a tourist bus in August 2009 and is alleged by prosecutors to be among several Mapuche activists to have been trained by Columbian terrorists in 2006.

The Araucania region is the scene of long standing tensions between Mapuche indigenous groups and local businesses. Activists are fighting for Mapuche land historically their to be returned to the community. They say their land was taken illegally by the Chilean state. Land occupations and attacks against businesses in the area have become increasingly common in recent years.

All three men can be held indefinitely under Chile’s antiterrorist laws. The government’s undersecretary of the interior Patricio Rosende announced that anti terrorism laws would be used in Mapuche-related violence last October after a spate of highway attacks in the Araucania Region (IX) (ST. Oct 13, 2009)

The special powers these laws give investigators and police are criticized by Mapuche organizations. Several activists held under the laws have complained of torture and abuse during interrogation.

One prisoner, Eduardo Osses Moreno, is currently on hunger strike protesting the excessive treatment he is subjected to. He claims to have been beaten, gassed and dunked in baths of excrement and urine while interrogated.

Human rights organizations also complain of police brutality in the region. One organization, Observatorio Ciudadano, last week highlighted the case of Italian photographer Massimo Falque, who they claim was arrested without reason and beaten by police.

Falque was living with a Mapuche family at the time. A statement by Mapuche groups insisted that this showed “clear police persecution and harassment towards local communities and their supporters.”

Meanwhile violence in the Aruacania region continues.

Police investigating a Friday morning fire at a rural school in the community of Galvarino finally concluded that an electrical fault caused the blaze, although initial press reports linked the fire to a series of arson attacks occurring in the region in recent weeks.

Earlier this month a rural school and private granary were set ablaze in Aruacania’s Ercilla community (ST. Feb 3). Although no evidence was found at the scene, police sources believe Mapuche activists were behind this fire and four other attacks on public and private property throughout January.

By James Fowler.