Chile: An ambush on forest workers leaves one dead in the Chilean Araucanía

Police from the Araucanía Air Section transfer the forestry worker wounded by a bullet this Tuesday, May 24, 2022 during an ambush.
Police from the Araucanía Air Section transfer the forestry worker wounded by a bullet this Tuesday, May 24, 2022 during an ambush.Carab Araucania (RR.SS)

A week after the Government of Gabriel Boric decreed a “limited” state of emergency in the region of La Araucanía and in two provinces of Biobío, in southern Chile, a new day of violence has been experienced this Tuesday in the area of Mapuche claim. In a part of the country where the demand of the native people for land has become more complex over time with the explosion of other crimes – such as roadblocks, wood theft, drug trafficking, high firepower and attacks with fatalities–, a group of hooded men attacked a bus in the morning carrying some 30 workers from the Mininco forestry company, in the municipality of Lumaco. There were at least three gunshot wounds and one of them, precisely a 66-year-old worker of Mapuche origin, died this afternoon, as confirmed by the Minister of the Interior, Izkia Siches. Meanwhile, around fifty hooded men attacked with firearms a Carabineros base that guarded a property in the Quidico area.

“My heartfelt condolences to the family and close friends of Juan Segundo Catril Neculqueo, a 66-year-old worker and father of four children. There is no justification for an expression of violence of this nature. We are going to get to the bottom, looking to find those responsible”, Siches wrote on social networks this Tuesday afternoon.

Shortly before, it had been President Boric himself who referred to this tragic day in the so-called South Macrozone. “We are not going to tolerate violence being imposed as a method of conflict resolution,” said the president, who despite initial resistance and that of his own political forces, last week had to turn to the military so that help control the roads in the area and maintain free circulation.

“There are some who believe that by attacking the people themselves they can achieve ends that, perhaps, they consider noble. But know that, if the means are not noble, the ends lose that objective”, pointed out the left-wing president in reference to other acts of violence of great impact that have occurred in recent hours in Chile, such as the burning of buses by part of secondary students of historical establishments of the capital.

In an activity with the Grand Lodge of Chile, Boric mentioned the worker who, at that time, was in serious condition. “Today Arauco has a sentence and that sentence is called Segundo Catril Neculqueo, the name of a worker who was shot in the head today, who is undergoing surgery and with whom I want from this solemn space to express all my solidarity and say that our deepest duty is to do something very basic: to say and repeat ad nauseam that violence is not the way”.

On behalf of the Government, Minister Siches rejected the acts of violence that occurred during the day, while announcing a criminal complaint to investigate the attack on the workers in La Araucanía. “She is one more victim of the violence that prevails in our south,” assured the doctor who is in charge of order and security. “Together with the Public Ministry, our police force and our Investigative Police, we hope to follow these events to the bottom and look for those responsible to effectively ensure that the rule of law reaches the entire national territory,” added the statement. minister.

Siches took advantage of his intervention from La Moneda to “assess” the work that the Armed Forces have been carrying out a week ago, “supporting and protecting the routes for clearing and continuous supply and transfer through the different routes”, which “has allowed the release of Carabineros forces to go in prevention and control of public order, “said the head of the Government Cabinet.

Both the president and the political generation that arrived in La Moneda just over two months ago were critical of the opposition’s 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 the appearance of new crimes. The right-wing Sebastián Piñera, his predecessor in office, sent the military 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. Minister Siches herself, in an unprecedented event in democracy, was greeted with an attack in 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 consecutive acts of violence, however, made the bet of the new left-wing administration unsustainable, so last week they had to resort to the uniformed men again to try to control the violence.

In La Araucanía and its neighboring areas the situation becomes entangled with the hours. The mayor of Lumaco, Richard Leonelli, told it this afternoon: “We are experiencing a very distressing situation.”

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