President Piñera visits the southern Araucanía Region, local Mapuche call on him to issue an apology for a history of crimes against the indigenous community.

 As Chilean President Sebastián Piñera toured the Araucanía Region on Thursday, attending various ceremonies, Mapuche leader Aucán Huilcamán took the opportunity to demand an apology from the head of state.

Huilcamán, leader of mapuche rights group Consejo de Todas las Tierras, put his demands in a letter he hoped to present to Piñera addressing crimes committed by the Chilean government.

“Here [in the Araucanía Region] they committed the worst atrocities against the Mapuche people,” Huilcamán said Thursday morning. “They attempted genocide, they pillaged our lands and stole our livelihoods — for this they should ask forgiveness.”

Temuco, the capital of the Araucanía Region and fourth-largest city in the country, has the biggest indigenous community of any Chilean city. As of the 2002 census, 23.05 percent of the city — and also a quarter of the region’s overall population — identified as Mapuche.

Piñera was scheduled to stop in Temuco to attend a ceremony for the opening of a water storage system and the inauguration of a government building.

Various organizations including the United Nations and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have criticized the Chilean government for its handling of Mapuche relations. Often cited is the use of the anti-terrorism law, first enacted under Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The law allows for harsher penalties for crimes such as arson and destruction of property, if the government determines the perpetrators to be connected to designated terrorist organizations. It can also allow suspects to be tried in a military court and for convictions to be based on the testimony of anonymous witnesses.

“The use of extraordinary procedures, which were established in the anti-terrorism law to tackle the most extreme political violence, is wholly unjustified when dealing with crimes attributed to the Mapuche that are mostly against property,” a 2004 HRW report said.

Mapuche suspects and convicts held under this law largely consider themselves to be political prisoners, often reverting to hunger strikes to fight for this recognition.

The Chilean government set up a special anti-terrorism unit to the region after a deadly fire killed an elderly farmer and his wife in January.

VIDEO Indigenous Mapuche People Struggle Against the Chilean State and Private

Responses to " Chile’s indigenous Mapuche demand an apology"

  1. Unknown says:

    Long live Mapuche. xx

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