Chilean arson attacks
On Friday (26 April), regional business lobby Multigremial de la Araucanía released a report revealing that Mapuche indigenous-related incidents increased by 503% in January-March 2019 in Chile's southern Araucanía region, compared with the same period in 2018 (136 reported cases versus 27). In the neighbouring Bío-bío, Los Ríos, and Los Lagos regions, also hotspots of rural violence over Mapuches' land restitution claims, the number of cases moved from 6 to 11, 4 to 2, and 3 to zero, respectively.
According to the report, most cases in Araucanía were arson attacks (36), followed by land occupations (32). On 22 April, the extremist group Coordinadora Arauco Malleco (CAM) claimed responsibility for setting alight six machines and attempting to burn another eight at the premises of the Agroforestal Pumalal firm on the border between Temuco and Lautaro. It was the first major attack since authorities lifted a two-month state of exception in the area on 6 April that had been declared to prevent the expansion of forest fires.
The risk of arson attacks against forestry and agricultural assets in Araucanía and neighbouring regions will remain high over the coming months. Hotspots in Araucanía are Victoria, Ercilla, Collipulli, and, to a lesser extent, Lumaco, Temuco, and Angol. The hotspots in Bío-bío are Cañete, Tirúa, and Contulmo.
Traditional targets are warehouses, machinery and vehicles belonging to forestry and agricultural firms, as well as cargo in transit, mainly on Route 5 and rural roads. Forestry contractors are increasingly targets, having already lost 408 machines, a total of USD70 million since January 2014, according to sources in the sector. Additionally, several companies have been forced to downsize or close. Electricity towers have also been occasional targets since 2016.
An indicator of the government advancing its security strategy will be the passing of a short version of its proposed anti-terrorism law, as announced on 22 April, focused on increasing prerogatives of intelligence services. An indicator of reduced attacks will be if the government declares a state of exception in the region until the end of the year, as demanded by the private sector; however, this is unlikely.
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