Soldiers are deployed to Temuco in Araucania in October last year


Soldiers are deployed to Temuco in Araucania in October last year – Copyright AFP/File Mario QUILODRAN

Chile ordered the redeployment of its military to the Araucania region in the south of the country Monday, in the face of mounting violence linked to territorial claims by the Mapuche indigenous group.

“We have decided to use all tools to guarantee security,” said interior minister Izkia Siches after announcing the move.

Soldiers were deployed to Araucania and to towns in the neighboring Biobio region in October last year on the orders of conservative then-president Sebastian Pinera.

New leader Gabriel Boric promised to withdraw the soldiers while campaigning for the presidency earlier this year and the process began on March 27.

But after attempting in vain to win approval from Congress for an “intermediate” deployment — and in the face of a surge in arson — he was forced to reimpose emergency measures.

Siches said the government would pursue a policy of dialogue with the Mapuche community and continue its land purchases in the area while maintaining the state of emergency.

Some communities in southern Chile have for decades demanded the return of lands they argue belong to them by virtue of ancestral rights — lands which are mainly held by forestry companies and farmers.

Radical indigenous groups have claimed responsibility for some attacks in the area, though there are also reports of vigilante groups dedicated to lumber theft and petty crime operating in the region.

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