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Chile: Police Special Forces Evict Mapuche Community From Contested Lands

temucuicui Photo by Donmatas1 on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

“Welcome to the Temucuicui Autonomous Community” Photo by Donmatas1 on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In the early morning of Wednesday, October 9, riot police and members of the Group of Special Operations (GOPE in Spanish), an elite, special unit of the Chilean Police, raided the Temucuicui Autonomous Community [es], an indigenous Mapuche community located near the town of Ercilla in the Araucania Region of Southern Chile.

A self-denominated “autonomous” community, Temucuicui has occupied what they consider to be ancestral lands for over two years. They have resisted several eviction attempts, and their resistance has landed many community leaders and members in jail.

The land where the community lives is part of what the Mapuche call “Wallmapu”, meaning Mapuche country, where clashes between police forces and Mapuche activists are common. Currently, these lands are contested, but legally owned by landowners Rene Urban, Martin Ruf and the Zeit family.

News site Terra [es], one of the few to speak to the police, cited [es] Commissioner Major Salomón Zenteno, the Commissioner in charge of the 2nd Police Station of Malleco, explaining details about the operation that morning:

Esta orden de desalojo comenzó alrededor de las 09:15 horas, participando aproximadamente unos 60 funcionarios a cargo del coronel Marcelo Teuber Muñoz de la Prefectura de Malleco”, dijo el comisario, agregando que “tuvimos dos detenidos, el señor Mijael Carbone (werkén o vocero) y su cónyuge. Durante el desalojo resultó una carabinera lesionada por la conviviente de Mijael Carbone, quien a oponer resistencia a su detención efectuó varios puntapiés, golpeando una de las manos de la carabinera.

“This eviction order began to be [implemented] at around 09:15 with the participation of approximately 60 officers under the command of Colonel Marcelo Teuber Muñoz from the Malleco prefecture”, said the Commissioner. He added that “we had two arrests: Mr. Mijael Carbone (werkén or spokesperson) and his partner. During the eviction, a police woman was injured in her hand by Mijael Carbone's partner when she kicked repeatedly while resisting arrest.”

[Note: In Latin America, the rank of Commissioner often refers only to the police official in charge of a single police station and not the entire police force, as is often the case in the UK or other countries.]

In a public statement, the community expressed its complaints and concerns about this operation and the broader context in which it occurs:

 1.- El día de ayer Miércoles 09 de Octubre de 2013, se produjeron dos graves hechos de violencia por parte los aparatos represivos del Estado Chileno, quienes una vez más han violentado nuestros derechos y la tranquilidad de la Comunidad, mediante la irrupción, incursión y militarización violenta a nuestras tierras, allanando y destruyendo todos los bienes y sembrados que poseemos en los predios que hemos denominado recuperación productiva y control territorial de nuestra tierra ancestral, hoy en manos de particulares.

1.- On Wednesday, October 9 of 2013, two serious, violent incidents were carried out by the repressive apparatus of the Chilean State. Once again, they have violated our rights and the tranquility of the community, through the intrusion and the violent militarization of our lands. They have raided and destroyed all our goods and the crops that we possess in lands that we consider under “productive recovery” and which today are controlled by private landowners.

The statement added:

 3.- Con esta grave y violenta arremetida policial, queda claramente demostrado que no existe la voluntad política y administrativa de parte el Estado Chileno en solucionar las demandas de nuestra comunidad. La “voluntad de diálogo” que supuestamente han manifestado, no es más que una práctica histórica de engaño y manipulación hacia el Pueblo Mapuche, por cuanto nuestra comunidad continuará reivindicando nuestro legítimo derecho a la tierra y territorio usurpado. Lamentamos que las autoridades de gobierno no hayan sido capaces de solucionar nuestras demandas, solo han respondido con una fuerte represión y maltrato a nuestra gente y con nuestras Autoridades Tradicionales, militarizando y sitiando completamente a nuestra comunidad.

3.- This serious and violent police advance demonstrates that the Chilean State does not have the political and administrative will to solve the demands of our community. The “will to dialogue” that they have supposedly expressed, is nothing more than a long-held practice of deceit and manipulation against the Mapuche People. For that reason, our community will continue to reivindicate our legitimate rights to stolen lands. We regret that government authorities have not been capable of solving our demands. They only have responded with the strong repression and mistreatment of our people and our Traditional Authorities. [They have] militarized and completely sieged our community

Hours after the operation, Azkintuwe [es], the first Mapuche media outlet in Chile, reported [es]:

Según el Werken Jorge Huenchullan, son alrededor de 300 efectivos policiales los que irrumpieron violentamente, destrozando casas y atropellando rebaños de ovejas pertenecientes a la comunidad, arrojando un saldo de 15 animales muertos y otros tantos heridos, “todos propiedad de los peñi”

According to Werken (leader/spokesperson) Jorge Huenchullan, about 300 police officers violently entered [the community], destroying homes and running over a flock of sheep that belonged to the community, leaving 15 animals dead and several wounded. “All belong to the peñis (brother in Mapudungun, the Mapuche language)

The Ajayula Magazine [es], republished [es] a post with the testimony of a Susana Curinao, a 25-year-old woman and member of the Temucuicui Autonomous Community. She explains that in the morning of October 9 they saw police forces destroying fences the community had erected to protect their sowed cereals. Mijael approached the person who was in charge of the operation to talk to them, while Susana filmed everything with her cellphone. She says that at least 20 police officers grabbed Mijael and kicked him. When Susana ran over to the officers to ask them to release Mijael, two female officers grabbed her. She says that 12 officers “dealt with her”

Me agarraron de la cabeza y el pelo para echarme hacia el suelo y me pateaban por detrás mientras otros me amarraban las manos atrás con algo como un elástico que hacía mucha presión sobre mis manos y de esa forma me subieron al un furgón policial. Arriba creo que sufrí lo peor que le puede ocurrir a una mujer en cualquier parte, donde quizás el insulto más suave que me dijeron fue “india puta, hija de borrachos, hedionda a culo, descendiente de ratas…”. También me decian que un día nos harían desaparecer a todos los mapuche así como lo había hecho su general con los comunistas, eso no lo entendí mucho pero creo que se referían a Pinochet…

They grabbed my head and hair to put me on the ground. They kicked me from behind while others tied my hands with something like a rubber band that put a lot of pressure in my hands. They put me in a police van. Inside, I suffered the worse that can happen to a woman anywhere. The softest insult I received was “indian whore, drunkard daughter, you smell like ass, rat’s descendant…”. They also said that one day they will make all of the Mapuche disappear, just like their General had done with the communists. I didn’t understand that much, but I think they referred to Pinochet…

On Twitter, many shared reactions using the hashtag #temucuicui:

Meanwhile, in Temucuicui…

Mijael Carbone and his wife detained, now in Angol, after violent raid in Temucuicui

Families of Temucuicui re-enter lands without fear of another eviction

In an article for Revista Anfibia [es], Carolina Rojas [es] explored the long-term effects of the violence:

Ayer, a las diez de la mañana seguían llegando carros policiales, todo era una Franja de Gaza a 535 kilómetros de Santiago. Las noticias del horario prime, no hicieron ninguna mención. De esa indolencia sabe muy bien Karina Riquelme, abogada de algunos comuneros de la zona. “Este ha sido el allanamiento más grande de la historia y a nadie parece importarle”, comentó.

Karina dice que una cosa es el daño a los adultos y otra es ese mundo infantil resquebrajado. Vidas que están reducidas a un espacio de guerra y a pequeños momentos de felicidad donde ellos juegan a la escondida con el sonido de los grillos de fondo, montan caballo y persiguen a los cerdos y a las ovejas. Esos, son sólo interludios en un continuo de violencia.  “Los niños experimentan esas situaciones desde que tienen meses de edad, niños que no sonríen y su seriedad se intensifica con el tiempo…

Yesterday, police vehicles kept on arriving at ten in the morning. It was like the Gaza Strip, but only 535 kilometers from Santiago. Prime time news did not mention it. Karina Riquelme, lawyer of some of the community members, knows well about that indolence. “This has been the largest raid in history and no one seems to care”, she said.

Karina says that one thing is the damage done to adults and another is how children are broken. These children's lives are confined to a war zone and only get brief moments of happiness when they play hide and seek to the sound of crickets, ride a horse or chase pigs and sheep. Those moments are only the interlude in a long continuum of violence. “Children go through these situations from the time they are months old. These are children that do not smile and their seriousness intensifies as time goes by…

To learn more about the Temucuicui community and their resistance, watch this interview [es] of Mijael Carbone by Prensa Opal from December 2012:

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