Santiago is not getting a grip on the situation with the Mapuche in the country’s south.
That is why the Chilean Senate on Tuesday approved the extension of the state of emergency that has been partially in effect since May.
The epicenter of the so-called “Mapuche conflict” pits indigenous communities, forestry companies, and the state against each other.
The measure was approved for the seventh consecutive time with 41 votes in favor, three abstentions, and one vote against.
Following the Congressional decision, the state of emergency will remain in effect for another 15 days throughout the La Araucanía region and in the provinces of Arauco and Biobío in the Biobío region.
In these areas, there have been increased acts of sabotage of forestry machinery, property and house fires, timber theft, and shootings for months.
“In the government of President Boric, we are aware that the state of emergency will not be a solution. We don’t like to resort to this instrument, but when Chileans live in fear, and the police can’t handle it, we resort to it,” Interior Minister Carolina Tohá said after the vote.
With this constitutional instrument, the military can be deployed in the area to assist the carabineros (militarized police) in controlling public order, including policing the main roads and surrounding streets.
In La Araucanía and other areas in southern Chile, there has been a territorial dispute for decades between the state, some Mapuche communities, and forestry companies that exploit the land that the indigenous people consider their ancestral land.
The Mapuche people, Chile’s largest indigenous group, lay claim to the land they inhabited for centuries before the Chilean state forcibly occupied it in the late 19th century as part of what is officially known as the “Pacification of Araucanía,” and most of which is now owned by forestry companies.
Part of the left and indigenous movements argue that militarization only fuels the conflict and that more cross-cutting and long-term action is needed.