An Eyewitness Report: April 2, 2012 in Chekenko, Ercilla (Chile)

The following is a statement written by Luis Garcia-Huidobro Sj who was present for the raids on the Mapuche communities in Ercilla on Monday, April 2, 2012. The incident resulted in several arrests and the death of a Chilean police officer. This statement was made on Monday, April 2, 2012 before the news of the police officer’s death had become public. Originally written in Spanish, this statement was translated and graciously provided to Project ISD by Man-Ya Kniese.

Statement by Luis Garcia-Huidobro Sj – Monday, April 2, 2012:

Today I happened to be in the community Wente Winkul Mapu, Chekenko, during the raid by police. I spent the night there visiting some peñi who are in the process of territorial recovery of various farms, one of Mininco another of Arauco, another of Cautín and one from a particular, all in Mapuche ancestral territory.

Early in the morning the peñi left for Collipulli. When police arrived at many of the houses there were only women and children.

At about nine thirty in the morning came a police contingent that was similar to that in November when two young men were arrested. There are enough pictures of that procedure with the police shooting in November, and a video of a lamgen who was shot in one breast. Today I counted 10 vehicles, a tank, a Skunk (very large police bus), an armored police bus and several trucks. They were about 50 special forces troops. I must say that I didn’t get to see or hear shooting today. What I saw was generally quiet, but I was impressed by such a large police contingent. Recently, when I learned there was a policeman wounded, I knew it must have been very circumstantial, because there was no big confrontation. Yes we saw in the distance on the hill 2 hooded men, not more. The police were recording it.

It was far away, I could not tell if they had any weapons or not. Hopefully there is nothing to regret. One immediately thinks of his family. I have not heard of injuries from the community. In the afternoon I will go for more information.

I was there at the time they took one of the women prisoner. She was about 40 or 50 years old, she was told that in her house they had found a ski mask and a shotgun shell, and that’s why she was arrested. She and the other women of the family (there was no man in the house) were very surprised, they said they were always cleaning and ordered everything in the house and had never found anything unusual. There were many little kids looking at everything. The family is evangelical. When special forces left their home, a group of about 5 women knelt in prayer, they asked me to accompany them as well. “You, Lord God, you are our only judge, and our only advocate” they prayed aloud in the way the Mapuche evangelicals do.

They took another woman in custody on the accusation that in her house there was a modified weapon as they said. I did not have the opportunity to see that. There were many police vehicles that crossed the entire community.

When it was over, we came to Collipulli with a few peñi. But here we were surprised to learn that they had arrested one more person, a young man who was not in the community this morning. This means that the only man, was arrested in Collipulli.

We heard on the radio that a policeman was wounded, even that it was life threatening. It’s unfortunate. I hope he recovers and there is nothing to regret. The police are thrown into it with a clash, like the Mapuche, in a conflict that is of the great entrepreneurs, owners of the forestry’s, who have usurped the territory since the dictatorship and are enriched with forest production which reduces the Mapuche. We all know that these are their lands. There are many people suffering in this conflict, because the current government only defends forest production, whatever the cost, the state takes care of the business of the rich. The rage is great in the communities, many Mapuche youths are already dead, and previous histories of police setups cause more anger, but now you just think that the police officer has a family, like the dead Mapuche youths, as the dead until now are all Mapuche.

Hopefully, in this new act that occurred in the community Wente Winkul Mapu the version can be heard from all involved, especially all the women who were there to protect their homes, not just the official version.

In this community, as told above, there are two young prisoners taken 5 months ago in the last raid, whom I visited a couple of days in jail of Angol. That raid that took them was in November, and thank God there was a journalist who recorded all how police came in shooting as if they were in Afghanistan, wounding a woman shot in her breast. The two youths who were taken prisoners at that time, were taken to court shortly afterwards all black-and-blue, their faces swollen and the whole back and legs purple.

They said that General Bezmalinovic had kicked them. They were charged with attempted murder on General Bezmalinovic, who had dropped from a helicopter. Thank God he did not sustain any damage. What the police is saying is that the Mapuche tried to shoot a gun but it got stuck and so did not fire. I wish there came an objective investigation because it is very strange. The judge was surprised that the medical report said “minor injuries” of the youths, because they were visibly bruised. The youths are still in custody. That is already 5 months. One is the son of a widowed mother who has no one else. They are almost little boys those two. It would be good to judge them soon. Hopefully they will not have them awaiting trials for 3 years like other Mapuche, because they are the livelihood for their families.

Hopefully this story is not misinterpreted. I do not mean to say that the police are guilty, although one wonders for what they came thus massively. One understands that they are under the stress in which they work, and it would be terrible to have this, that there is a policeman wounded. The police I saw were over 50 in 10 vehicles. A totally useless operation in which 2 women were arrested, as well as a peñi who was arrested in Collipulli, meaning that he has nothing to do with the raid or confrontation. They should not send the police but send someone of the Government to open a dialogue and return these lands to bring peace.

It is very difficult in these things to know the truth of everything. The Mapuche are quickly arrested but the accusations that the Mapuche make against the police remain in the military justice system, such as the beatings the youngsters received in November, or like the murders of other young Mapuche during the governments of Bachelet and Lagos. It is common sense that this court is not objective and we must change this law.

There are already many irregularities of the police in this area, complaints and investigations fail to reach home through the military justice system. But I want to emphasize that I do not think the blame is on the police. It is true that there are abuses of them, much bigger than those seen in Aysen or in the student movement, but this is a conflict against the great forestry’s and the state.

In total in the Malleco province are 12 000 hectares that are usurped, and this conflict will continue year after year. No government really wanted to fix it, perhaps because it is much money that involves the forestry’s Mininco and Arauco.

Hopefully tomorrow everything is quiet around here, that the police and the Mapuche can rest easy.

Tomorrow starts the preparation for the oral trial under the anti-terrorism law to Mapuche from neighboring communities.

Instead of solving such a big problem, they throw in the police, they criminalize and then they throw the ball. The children who today see all this are going to keep fighting for their lands. This is not terrorism. It is a historical conflict that the State must address more seriously. This is never going to stop and will continue to grow until there is a truly honest and courageous government to recognize that the forestry’s should leave this land that belongs to the Mapuche. That’s easy to understand but hard to do by the amount of money involved for the forestry’s Mininco and Arauco.

Luis Garcia-Huidobro sj.

Posted in: Chile, Mapuche

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