Sunday, September 24, 2017

Was Chile Sending a Message in Armed Forces Parade?

In a rare break from tradition, the Sept. 19 Armed Forces Day parade saw the Army put some of is heavy armor on display. Armored units usually don't participate in the annual parade, which is mainly a showcase for the military academies and for patriotic celebrations. But this year, elements of the Third Armored Brigade based in Antofagasta took part, the first time since the bicentennial parade in 2010 that tanks roll in front of the military brass and the president. It was a modest assembly of just a few Leopard 2A4 tanks, Marder infantry fighting vehicles, M-109A5 self-propelled howitzers and engineering vehicles. But with Bolivia's leaders unrelenting in their anti-Chile rhetoric, perhaps Chile wanted to remind its neighbor of the potent enemy it would face if the two countries ever came to blows. The Third Armored Brigade, in fact, would be one of the first to face Bolivian troops. Still, the possibility of armed conflict remains remote, largely because Bolivia's military is so inferior and Chile would mobilize its Army only if it saw a real threat. A bigger problem with Bolivia is the smuggling, car theft and drug traffic along the border.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Chile Resorts to Anti-Terrorism Law in Mapuche Attacks

The radical indigenous movement operating in the south of Chile has stepped up its attacks, burning 29 trucks in a single assault and launching other attacks that have left dozens of trucks and logging machinery destroyed. Mapuche activists have long been targeting logging companies in a violent campaign to win back ancestral lands, a conflict that's only growing worse. Since 2010, more than 250 trucks have been burned, but the toll has risen sharply since last year. Some churches and government equipment have been targeted, too. Chile's government says it will combat the violence with its counter-terrorism laws, which limit certain civil rights. The attacks certainly aren't of the severity of global terror organizations such as ISIS. In another context, these would be just criminal acts, but the political overtones make them fall under the umbrella of organized terror. Years of conflict, ineffective policing and little progress on the central issue of land holdings have combined to create one of Chile's biggest security problems, and one with no quick solution. The latest wave of attacks comes amid the trial of 11 Mapuches accused in the killing of an elderly couple whose home was set ablaze in 2013. Truckers, meanwhile, have threatened to strike unless the government can provide better protection.UPDATE: Police arrested eight people in connection with the fires, including the spokesman of the Mapuche uprising. His home and others were raided in what police called a six-month investigation.