Chile intensifies its war against the Mapuche people

On the day the verdict was announced regarding the assassination of Mapuche leader Camilo Catrillanca, police carried out a violent raid of 6 Mapuche communites and violently detained members of Catrillanca’s family to stop them from attending court

January 08, 2021 by Tanya Wadhwa
On January 7 police invaded several Mapuche communities across Araucania and detained members of Camilo Catrillanca's family as they went to hear to the verdict about his murderers. Photo: Twitter

The Oral Criminal Court (TOP) of Angol, in the Araucanía region of southern Chile, on January 7, found seven former officials of the national police force, the Carabineros of Chile, guilty of the murder of Indigenous Mapuche community member, Camilo Catrillanca, committed on November 14, 2018.

Former police sergeant Carlos Alarcon, accused of firing the bullet that killed 24-year-old Catrillanca, was convicted of simple consummated homicide. He was also found guilty of plain frustrated homicide of the minor who accompanied Catrillanca at the time of the incident. The rest of the defendants were found guilty of illegitimate coercion of the minor, unjustified shooting and obstruction of justice, among other charges. The court announced that the reading of the sentence will take place on January 28 at 11 am.

Catrillanca’s family, however, was denied their right to hear the conviction first hand. While traveling to Angol, Camilo’s mother, widow and 7-year-old daughter were stopped and detailed by officials of the Investigative Police of Chile (PDI).

Camilo Catrillanca’s father Marcelo Catrillanca, was also harassed and stopped by the police from attending the hearing. He rejected the verdict and called it a “mockery of justice, of the family and of his son.” He denounced the fact that only the officials who committed the crime had been condemned and not the political and intellectual authors who persuaded the officials to do it. He announced that the family will appeal the verdict in higher courts and if necessary will take the case to the international court in order to draw attention to the abuses suffered by Mapuche people in Chile.

While the verdict was being announced in court, six Mapuche communities in the Araucanía region were raided by the agents of the PDI and the Carabineros, over alleged illegal arms and drugs search operations. The members of raided communities, Pancho Curamil, Temucuicui, Huañaco Millao, Butaco and Chacaico, denounced that over 60 armored vehicles, around 700 police personnel and 4 helicopters surrounded the town. One PDI officer died after being wounded by a bullet and eight others suffered minor injuries.They were reportedly shot by communities in self-defense of violent raids and attacks on their families.

On November 14, 2018, Catrillanca was shot dead in the Temukuikui community during an invasion by a special ‘anti-terrorist’ unit of the Special Police Operations Group (GOPE) called the Comando Jungla. During the invasion, which involved nearly 400 police personnel and two helicopters circling overhead, police official Carlos Alarcon, arbitrarily fired several 12 shots against Catrillanca, while he was driving a tractor with a 15-year-old boy next to him. After the crime, the GOPE officials tried to cover the unjustified assassination, claiming that Catrillanca was carrying arms and died in a confrontation. The GOPE’s lawyer, Cristian Inostroza, who covered up the murder was also found guilty.

Catrillanca was a farmer and a student leader. He worked for the reclamation of Mapuche lands in Ercilla town, in Araucanía. His death sparked a wave of protests across Chile against police violence as well as against the discrimination, harassment and stigmatization faced by Mapuche communities in the country.