Chile promises to investigate Mapuche killing

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Chile promises to investigate Mapuche killing

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Mapuche are Chile's largest indigenous group

Chile's President Sebastián Piñera has promised a thorough investigation after a young indigenous man was fatally shot by police.

The incident on Wednesday sparked protests in an area in the country's south, which is marked by tensions over land ownership.

Police said Camilo Catrillanca, 24, was accidentally shot in the head during an operation against local car thieves.

Mr Catrillanca was a grandson of a Mapuche indigenous leader.

He was driving a tractor in a rural area when he was hit by the bullet. It is not clear who fired the shot.

"The government will spare no means to get to the truth of what happened, and has requested the exclusive deployment of a prosecutor to this case," Mr Piñera tweeted.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Demonstrators were arrested during Thursday's protests in Santiago

The incident happened in Araucanía region, in southern Chile, where Mapuche activists have clashed with logging companies and farmers.

Since returning to power last year, Mr Piñera vowed to prioritise solving the centuries-old conflict with the Mapuche.

He promised to invest in the region's infrastructure and also to tackle terrorism.

Who are the Mapuche?

  • Before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th Century, the Mapuche inhabited a vast swathe of land in southern Chile
  • They resisted conquest until the late 19th Century, when they were rounded up into small communities
  • Much of their land was sold off to farmers and forestry companies
  • Some 9% of Chileans define themselves as Mapuche

A special force, trained in the Colombian rainforest and known as the Jungle Command, had been deployed in the area.

Opposition politicians and human rights groups have criticised the use of the special force against ordinary criminals.

They say the incident will fuel further tension in the region.

Following Mr Catrillanca's death, there were protests in the capital, Santiago, and incidents in the Araucanía region, where a church was set on fire and farmers were attacked.

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