December 1, 2018: Indigenous arsonists torch lumber trucks in Chile

On December 1, 2018 four lumber trucks were torched by Mapuches in Chile’s Malleco Province, injuring one driver.

COLLIPULLI, CHILE – We hear more and more these days about native/indigenous protest actions against any number of enemies: does arson constitute an acceptable form of protest?

It seems that there are more and more instances these days where the ‘original inhabitants‘, however that is defined, are protesting the conditions and history through which they ‘lost’ that land. These versions of past events usually involve the ‘colonisers‘ who came, often from European lands, established themselves, cheated and/or killed those who were there first and took over. Not great chapters in human history.

On the other hand, and this is not to ignore and minimise human suffering, our species has been ‘invading‘ and changing the locks on the doors across societies and across lands for millennia. This is not an attempt to excuse the behaviour or tragic deaths but merely to say it has been going on for a very, very long time. And, it must be said, these actions have also been carried out by the very groups making the lion’s share of the accusations today, against other groups in the same territories.

One such campaign has been unfolding in Chile. The South American nation, perhaps best known by most of us for two reasons, the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet from 1973 to 1990 and the ‘disappearances‘ associated with that reign, and the subsequent rise of democracy and a strong economy, is now the scene of massive unrest by activists keen on a number of causes. One such group is the Mapuches, an indigenous group seeking greater autonomy in its ancestral lands. The government was forced in October 2021 to declare a state of emergency in southern Chile in response to arson attacks, mostly against logging companies, by these actors.

And this was not the first time arson was used as a weapon.

On this day in 2018

Four lumber trucks were torched by Mapuches in the Malleco Province town of Collipulli. One driver was injured in the attack. The Coordinadora Arauco Malleco (CAM) was suspected to have been behind the incident.

The president has been under tremendous pressure for months now from conservatives within his own party, and other groups including truck drivers, to call a stage of siege in the Araucania, but he has been reluctant to do so until now.

Al Jazeera journalist

While it is true that many of the Mapuche, numbering on the order of one million, live in poverty and have legitimate grievances to raise, is it not odd that arson is used to register this unhappiness? Isn’t fire supposed to ‘cleanse’?

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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