SANTIAGO – Two homes and a pickup truck were destroyed early Thursday in firebombings in the southern Chilean province of Arauco, where Mapuche Indians have engaged in attacks on property as a part of a campaign to recover their ancestral lands.
A group of about eight unknown men firebombed the homes of two forest rangers from the Mininco lumber firm while they were inside with their families, and they were threatened by the attackers, who also burned one vehicle, police said.
Arauco Gov. Humberto Toro said that authorities are working “to prepare a complaint and analyze the possibility of implementing the state’s internal security law,” which characterizes crimes against national security the public order.
To flee the scene, the criminals stole a pickup truck belonging to the Salfa construction company and – along with other people – blocked roadways in five sectors of the province.
“Due to the road blockages, many people had to sleep in the homes of relatives and friends. In addition, three schools could not hold their classes normally,” Toro said.
The demonstrations, authorities said, were staged to protest the arrest of Mapuche leader Cristian Levinao Melinao, who was taken into custody this week after becoming a fugitive from justice in July, along with photographer Felipe Duran Ibañez.
The firebomb attack came after several traffic blockades were carried out by masked and hooded individuals along the Tirua-Cañete highway.
The so-called Mapuche conflict has been affecting the area for several years, with certain communities demanding the return of what they claim are ancestral lands that are currently in the hands of lumber and farming companies.
The conflict has resulted in the violent deaths of a number of local residents, police officers and farmers, along with firebomb attacks on property, forests and vehicles, as well as the arrests and filing of criminal charges against several dozen Indians for assorted unlawful acts.