Saturday, March 15, 2014
Mapuche Fighters Display Effective Tactics
Seven police officers were hurt in an ambush as they moved to clear a group of about 40 masked men who had taken over a ranch. The assailants, believed to be extremist Mapuche activists, fired shotguns and other weapons at police, wounding the officers. The gunmen fled, and Carabineros were not able to make any arrests. The March 4 hit-and-run attack was just one of several that Mapuche fighters have carried out with success. Their tactics show a growing sophistication, and at the same time authorities seem to be one step behind. The region's police commander is asking for armored vehicles, which would afford Carabineros with a better way to pursue guerrilla fighters and defend against ambush. Already, more officers and a surveillance plane have been moved in to support the heavily fortified police station in the community of Ercilla. Violence in the southern Chilean region escalated after a Mapuche man was convicted in the arson deaths of an elderly couple. It was a rare court victory for authorities, who also haven't had much success prosecuting suspects. Many have walked away free. In August, for example, a dozen Mapuches held more than a year for an arson attack on a bus were acquitted.