05 February 2010
'A rural school was set alight by arsonists early Monday morning and police believe the same arsonists started a second fire on private land moments later to cover their escape.
Witnesses heard shots before discovering a granary owned by local farmer Julio Molina ablaze. Damage to the granary is estimated atUS$50,000.
The intentionally started fires are the latest in a spate of incidents reported in Malleco Province so far this year. Previous attacks in the area have targeted forestry vehicles, farm equipment and a bridge.
Land rights issues are a sore point in much of southern Chile, where the indigenous Mapuche culture once ruled – until finally overthrown by the state of Chile in the late 1800s. Local indigenous groups are fighting farmers and businesses over the ownership of ancestral lands which they claim were taken from them by the Chilean state.
Mapuche activists have launched numerous land occupations in the past to draw attention to their cause. Regional land owners have taken to building ditches and fortifications to protect their land, while protestors are often injured or seriously hurt after clashing with police.
Last month Carabinero Walter Ramirez was imprisoned for two years for the 2008 death of Mapuche protestor Matias Catrileo (ST. Jan 18). Catrileo was shot in the back while participating in the occupation of a field in the same region as the recent outbreak of fires.
Another activist - Jaime Mendoza Collío - died at the hands of police following a similar incident last August (ST. Aug 17, 2009). Charges have yet to be brought against any of the Carabinero’s allegedly involved in the death.
Regional motorway traffic has also been a target in the past, with Mapuche groups blamed for attacking highway toll booths and trucks. The fears of motorists and business leaders prompted the government to install security cameras along the nation’s main “Route 5” highway where it passes through the Araucania region.
An activist arrested after a recent attack on motorway traffic is currently on hunger strike, protesting torture he allegedly received while in state custody.
Eduardo Osses Moreno claims to have been forcibly submerged in human excrement and urine by police interrogators. His Mapuche supporters insist that this torture is condoned by high ranking officials in the police and government...'