Gabriel Boric takes a political turn and lays hands on the military in an area of ​​Mapuche claim

Members of the Mapuche community protest in the city of Temuco, in southern Chile, on November 4, 2021.
Members of the Mapuche community protest in the city of Temuco, in southern Chile, on November 4, 2021.MARIO QUILODRAN (AFP)

Chilean President Gabriel Boric has had to change his plans. Despite the fact that on March 11 he made his debut in La Moneda with the firm intention of demilitarizing La Araucanía and neighboring regions, where a complex conflict is being waged over the ancestral lands of the Mapuche people, the escalation of violence in the area has made him turn and decree a “limited” state of emergency, as announced Monday night by the Minister of the Interior, Izkia Siches.

It does so pushed by the wave of attacks that erode its citizen support and by the incessant requests from both the population and unions such as truck drivers or forestry workers for the reinforcement of security with the help of the Armed Forces. Boric’s decision, not shared by the left part of his conglomerate, especially by the Communist Party, has exposed the political complexities that the 36-year-old president faces to carry out his government agenda.

Both the president and the political generation that arrived in La Moneda two months ago were critical from the opposition regarding the strategy of decreeing states of constitutional exception in La Araucanía and surrounding areas, where the conflict over ancestral lands has become more complex in recent years. with crimes such as wood theft and drug trafficking.

The right-wing Sebastián Piñera, his predecessor in office, decided to establish militarization in October 2020, which was consecutively renewed with the authorization of Parliament. But President Boric, upon coming to power, opted for a new strategy based above all on political dialogue. The consecutive acts of violence, however, made the bet of the new left-wing administration unsustainable. Minister Siches herself, in an unprecedented event in democracy, was greeted with an attack on the Mapuche Temucuicui community, on her first trip to the area as leader of order and security. Despite this, on March 26 the de-escalation of the military occupation began.

The inhabitants of La Araucanía and neighboring regions observe the burning of trucks, roadblocks and shots fired with weapons of war on a daily basis, in an area of ​​Chile where the State seems to have no presence. On April 22, at dawn, a 35-year-old truck driver was seriously injured while driving on the main Chilean route, which led his union to begin a wave of protests demanding greater road safety, including road closures. . In the town of Tirúa, in the Biobío region, a Carabineros checkpoint was attacked on several occasions in recent days.

On Friday, for example, a group of 50 hooded men carrying about 500 gun cartridges came to “rescue” two people detained there. It was an attack that was later claimed by the Resistencia Mapuche Lavkenche (RML) group, which declared: “We make it clear to the Government that there will be no aggression without a response.” Mapuche Héctor Llaitul, leader of the Coordinadora Arauco-Malleco (CAM), an organization from the late 1990s that validates violence as a method for its political objectives, called for an “armed resistance for the autonomy of the territory.”

Boric sought in recent weeks for Congress to approve a kind of intermediate state of exception, a new legal formula that allowed the Armed Forces to protect the roads, without the need to resort to the declaration of a constitutional state of exception. The objective was to establish in the current Constitution a “state of protection and constitutional protection” mainly on routes and highways, with greater control of the civil authority. But part of his own coalition turned its back on him and Boric’s government did not have the votes in Congress to carry the initiative forward, because in his sector there is great resistance to the use of the military in the area. It was the reason why, finally, the Chilean Executive had to decide on the decree of a traditional, albeit limited, state of emergency. In practice, it is a rule that will govern the region of La Araucanía and two provinces of the Biobío region that will seek to restore free transit, but that will prevent the Armed Forces from controlling people and accompanying the police in compliance. of court orders.

In the government decree, it is reported that there has been an increase in violent acts on the routes and “extended road closures that put free transit at risk, disrupt public order and hinder supply chains, increasing the cost of life in the most backward areas. The measure was decreed for 15 days and the Boric Administration can extend it for a similar period without consulting Congress.

Boric’s decision has been resented from his own political force. Mapuche lawyer Salvador Millaleo, who helped him in the campaign and was an adviser in the first weeks of the government, later resigning due to differences with Siches, wrote: “We are fighting for a political solution and now we will have a new state of constitutional exception. We need another way of seeing and doing things. Building plurinationality requires greater conviction”, assured the Mapuche constitutionalist through social networks. Some of the ministers, such as the leader of the Social Development portfolio, Jeannette Vega -in charge of indigenous issues-, publicly argued in the previous days about the reasons for not militarizing La Araucanía and the conflict zones again.

On Monday, shortly before the government communicated the decision, the president of the Communist Party, Guillermo Teillier, along the same lines, stated: “We do not think it is time for the Armed Forces to interfere in this conflict.” Boric, however, leaned towards the heavy hand that certain sectors of socialism have pushed, which were not part of his original coalition.

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