In the south of Chile, a section of the Mapuche population has been waging a fierce struggle for many years against the large landowners (burning down their villas and occupying their land) as well as against agro-forestry operators, large hydro-electric dams and intensive salmon farms. It was in this context that Pablo Marchant Gutiérrez was murdered on Friday 9 July in Carahue during an attack on the vehicles of the company Forestal Mininco (a subsidiary of the cellulose giant CMPC).
The 29-year-old former anthropology student, who later joined the Mapuche struggle through CAM (Coordinadora Arauco Malleco), was participating in the burning of a minibus, a skidder and a tanker at around 5pm on the Santa Ana-Tres Palos estate when he was shot in the head at close range by carabinieri charged with protecting the interests of the loggers. Another saboteur and an employee were also wounded by bullets in the exchange of fire, and the public prosecutor’s office was quick to speculate that the bullet that sent the latter to hospital came from the M16 held by Pablo Marchant.
For its part, the CAM immediately made public the fact that Pablo had been shot by a carabiniere during a sabotage action carried out by one of its local groups (Órgano de Resistencia Territorial, ORT), the one called Lafkenche-Leftraru, thus becoming a Mapuche fighter (weichafe) who had fallen during the struggle. His body was accompanied the next day by 300 people from the Temuco Forensic Institute to the municipality of Lumaco, where a vigil for his body (feretro) will be held until Tuesday 13 July, the day of his burial.
The announcement of the assassination naturally triggered angry demonstrations the following Sunday from Santiago to Antofagasta, as well as numerous roadblocks, gunfire against carabinieri or landowners’ guards, and incendiary attacks by other radical Mapuche groups in several different regions (Biobío, La Araucanía and Los Ríos). Far from seeking justice from the murderous state, the latter immediately set about keeping Pablo Marchant’s ideas alive by attacking companies that exploit water or the forest throughout Mapuche territory.
A brief chronological overview of the last three days…
Vilcún, 10 July: three of the seven machines set on fire at the wood aggregate company
La Araucanía region
In the night of Friday 10 July at around 4.30am in the municipality of Vilcún on the Quintrilpe estate, three dump trucks, a backhoe, a front-end loader and two containers from a wood aggregate extraction company went up in smoke (1).
Victoria, 10 July: the truck from the Coca-Cola factory
La Araucanía region
On Saturday 10 July at around 6pm in Victoria, where barricades have been erected on the highway that links the south to the north of the country over more than 3,000 kilometres (Ruta 5), a truck belonging to the Embotelladora Andina/Coca-Cola company was intercepted by around 50 demonstrators, its driver forced to get out after having put the vehicle across the tracks, and then its cab was set on fire.
Panguipulli, 11 July: one of the three vehicles and the pick-up set on fire by Forestal Arauco
Los Ríos region
On Sunday 11 July at around 1am in Panguipulli, on the Santa Rosalía estate, three forestry machines and a pick-up truck belonging to the company Forestal Arauco were set on fire after the security guard had been incapacitated (2).
Pidima (Ercilla), 12 July: three of the five trucks stopped and then burned on the Ruta 5
La Araucanía region
On Monday 12 July at around 6am in Ercilla, in the Pidima area, several dozen unknown people unexpectedly cut off the Ruta 5 with a small barricade of burning tyres, forcing the first truck to stop, and the following ones to stop. They then ordered the drivers to get off willingly or by force (three recalcitrant drivers were injured), and then doused the first six professional vehicles with petrol for more than a hundred metres: a container truck, three tankers (from a company in Puerto Montt that transported salmon), a logging truck (transporting wood), and a pick-up truck were destroyed (3)
Cañete, 12 July: two of the sixteen vehicles and trucks burned
On Monday 12 July at around 9.30am in Cañete, in the Paso Los Negros sector of the El Hualle forest estate, a dozen unidentified gunmen neutralised the staff working in the area and then set fire to no less than sixteen forestry construction machines and trucks working for Forestal Arauco (4). According to the spokesperson for the national association of forestry contractors (Asociación de Contratistas Forestales), who complained to a local newspaper, their direct losses as a result of this type of attack since 2014 amount to almost 160 million dollars…
Finally, on Saturday morning, still in Cañete, two days earlier, this time in the area of Peleco, some ten kilometres to the south, it was the home that the prosecutor Luis Morales had kept since his transfer in 2019 after fifteen years there, which was deliberately reduced to ashes, while a message referring to the murder of Pablo was spray-painted on its wall.
Cañete, 11 July: the prosecutor in front of the remains of his country home
La Araucanía region
On Tuesday 13 July, at around 5am in Nueva Imperial, on the Misión Boroa road, unidentified armed individuals forcibly removed residents from a property, laying them on the ground so that they would not intervene, and then set fire to the two adjacent pieces of forestry equipment used for the extraction of wood pellets: a backhoe and a front-end loader.
Nueva Imperial, 13 July: the two forestry machines set on fire
Finally, on Wednesday 14 July, the day after Pablo Marchant’s funeral in Lumaco, a carabinero general was keen to publish figures for the 85 “acts of violence” that had taken place throughout the Mapuche area since Pablo’s murder by one of their own, from Friday evening 9 July to Wednesday morning: there had been 44 road blockades, 22 attacks with firearms [i.e. shooting at carabinero patrols or security guards], and 11 incendiary attacks. The latter destroyed 39 vehicles (24 forestry machines, 12 trucks, one minibus and one van): 23 in Cañete, 6 in Lautaron, 4 in Panguipulli, 2 in Nueva Imperial, 1 in Padre Las Casas, 1 in Freire, 1 in Victoria and 1 in Carahue, as well as 5 buildings (including the prosecutor’s pied-à-terre in Cañete and a health centre in Pidima on 10 July).
Most of these revenge attacks took place in 11 municipalities in four regions (Bío Bío, La Araucanía, Los Ríos, Los Lagos): Cañete, Victoria, Ercilla, Collipulli, Padre Las Casas, Temuco, Carahue, Panguipulli, Tirúa, Lautaro and Lumaco.
[Chilean press summary, 13 July 2021, updated the next day]
A small leaflet found at the scene and signed Liberación Nacional Mapuche (LNM) said “weichafe Pablo Marchan, in the armed struggle we bring justice”.
- The attack was claimed by a short message left at the scene, signed Liberación Nacional Mapuche (LNM) and saying: “Forestry companies get out! Pablo Marchant lives in the weichan [struggle]”.
- The attack was claimed by Resistencia Mapuche Malleco (RMM), which stated with a banner left at the scene: “Pablo Marchant, in your memory we will avenge your fall against Forestal […Mininco], bullets and fire against the police”.
- A leaflet found at the scene and signed Resistencia Mapuche Lavkenche (RML) also made direct reference to the assassination of Pablo Marchant (“who continues to live through the struggle”), as well as to Mapuche prisoners.
Chile: Arson after the death of a Mapuche activist
AFP, 12 July 2021
Trucks and farm machinery belonging to logging companies were set on fire in Chile’s southern Araucania region on Monday, three days after the death of a Mapuche activist in clashes with police.
Five trucks and farm machinery were burned by unidentified people who erected and set fire to barricades and fired shots to scare drivers on a road near the town of Ercilla, some 600 km south of Santiago, said Pablo Urquizar, regional coordinator for public security. “I immediately ask all the leaders of the radicalised organisations to give up their weapons and choose peace,” he said. At the scene of the fires, banners and pamphlets were found from radical Mapuche militant groups, according to the same source.
They are protesting against the death of Pablo Marchant, a Mapuche who was shot dead on Friday in a clash between demonstrators and police guarding a logging company in the municipality of Carahue, in the Auracanie region. The clashes also left one worker seriously injured. Other attacks were recorded over the weekend after the death of the activist, who was part of the Arauco Malleco Coordination (CAM). This radical collective, which claims sabotage against forestry companies and private installations, demands the return of ancestral lands. It is considered a radical “terrorist” group by the government.
Mapuche activists have increased their attacks and arson in southern Chile in recent years. After the arrival of the Spanish in Chile in 1541 and as a result of conflicts with successive governments, the Mapuche territory was considerably reduced. Today, they own only 5% of their former lands. The Mapuche represent 700,000 people out of Chile’s 18 million inhabitants. On 5 July a Mapuche woman was elected president of the Constituent Assembly charged with drafting a new constitution. Seventeen of the 155 seats in the Assembly were reserved for representatives of the original peoples.