Sunday, January 6, 2013

Mapuche Conflict Turning More Deadly; Military Enters the Fray

Extremists belonging to the Mapuche indigenous group are carrying out a wave of arson attacks, including one that killed an elderly couple. Police have arrested a suspect, a man who apparently was shot by the man who died in the blaze. The incident followed an attack Dec. 21 in which a group believed to be Mapuches raided an estate, killing a man watching over the property and wounding his wife. The government responded with special measures, including a special prosecutor, 84 more police in the Araucania region (to 400), a second police helicopter with night-vision equipment in the region and an increase in the number of armored vehicles to ten from six. More importantly, President Sebastian PiƱera is putting to use Chile's controversial anti-terrorism law, under which suspects can be held without charge, wiretaps can be set, and other civil liberties can be restricted. Now, Chile's military is involved, if only in a tangential way: The heads of the armed forces have met with police authorities for "technical coordination" and sharing of intelligence resources. The use of troops to fight extremists has not been discussed. So far.

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