SANTIAGO – Dozens of Mapuche and Pehuenche Indians took over the lands of a logging company and independent business owner in southern Chile, claiming the territories rightfully belong to the indigenous peoples.
In remarks to Bio Bio radio, one of the spokesmen for the Indians said Sunday that the Mapuches and Pehuenches hold government-recognized titles to the lands they occupied.
On Saturday, at least 50 Mapuches from the community of Temucuicui entered the La Romana estate on two occasions and used stones, slingshots, bolas and gunfire to attack police special forces units standing guard over the property.
Police used tear gas against the attackers.
The incident came two days after the Indians announced a process of “land recovery” and accused the government of not providing solutions to their situation.
Southern Chile has been the scene of long-running land disputes between Mapuche communities and farmers and lumber firms, with the conflicts often turning violent.
Mapuche Indian activist Matias Catrileo was shot in the back during a clash with police on Jan. 3, 2008.
Catrileo was trying to occupy a ranch with several other activists in La Araucania, a region located some 670 kilometers (416 miles) south of Santiago, when police opened fire on them.
The Mapuches, Chile’s largest indigenous group with slightly more than 600,000 members, demand the constitutional recognition of their tribal identity, rights and culture, as well as ownership of the lands that belonged to their ancestors. EFE