Thursday, November 28, 2013

Mapuche Conflict not Likely to Ease Under Bachelet

Former president Michelle Bachelet is facing a run-off with conservative Evelyn Matthei Dec. 15 to decide Chile's next president. The Socialist Bachelet is expected to cruise to victory. But don't expect a change in leadership to be welcomed by the country's Mapuche activists. At a campaign rally, protesters disrupted Bachelet and made it clear they hold her responsible for the deaths of several Mapuches during her 2006-10 administration. Meanwhile, the native group continues to clash with police, landowners and timber companies. On Nov. 17, election day, a group in the heart of Mapuche territory ambushed several police officers, although no one was hurt. In another part of the region, the trial of a Mapuche man charged in the killings of an elderly couple when their home was set on fire is continuing. A conviction could set off more confrontations. Mapuche activists have been seeking moral and other support from outside Chile, and this month the two brothers of a Mapuche found slain on a field last August sought political asylum in Bolivia. They fled Chile after a group of masked men threatened to kill them. One more killing, and the crisis could worsen. It figures to be one of Bachelet's biggest security challenges.

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