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Chile president decrees state of emergency in nation’s south

October 13, 2021 GMT
Chilean President Sebastian Piñera announces a state of emergency in the southern La Araucanía and Biobío regions, from La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. The state of emergency is a response to violence and attacks that are sometimes claimed by groups of Mapuche Indigenous people demanding the return of their ancestral lands. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Chilean President Sebastian Piñera announces a state of emergency in the southern La Araucanía and Biobío regions, from La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. The state of emergency is a response to violence and attacks that are sometimes claimed by groups of Mapuche Indigenous people demanding the return of their ancestral lands. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Chilean President Sebastian Piñera announces a state of emergency in the southern La Araucanía and Biobío regions, from La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. The state of emergency is a response to violence and attacks that are sometimes claimed by groups of Mapuche Indigenous people demanding the return of their ancestral lands. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
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Chilean President Sebastian Piñera announces a state of emergency in the southern La Araucanía and Biobío regions, from La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. The state of emergency is a response to violence and attacks that are sometimes claimed by groups of Mapuche Indigenous people demanding the return of their ancestral lands. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
1 of 4
Chilean President Sebastian Piñera announces a state of emergency in the southern La Araucanía and Biobío regions, from La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. The state of emergency is a response to violence and attacks that are sometimes claimed by groups of Mapuche Indigenous people demanding the return of their ancestral lands. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — President Sebastián Piñera declared a state of emergency Tuesday in 72 communities in two regions of southern Chile amid disturbances and attacks sometimes claimed by Indigenous Mapuche groups demanding the return of their ancestral lands.

The decree limits freedom of assembly and movement and also allows the military to support police. Such an order by the president can run for a maximum of 15 days, renewable for 15 more days with the agreement of Congress.

The measure affects 40 communities in the Biobío region and 32 in La Araucanía. In the latter region, violence and conflicts have dragged on for decades, including attacks on forestry machinery and trucks. In Biobío, which neighbors La Araucanía, arsonists burned two churches, one Roman Catholic, one Evangelical.

Piñera said the state of emergency is “to be able to protect the population, to safeguard public order and the rule of law.”

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After learning of the measure, truckers began to gradually lift road blockades they had set up in both regions to demand greater safety on their routes.

La Araucanía has spent years under the custody of militarized police, who have been criticized for the 2018 shooting of a young Mapuche. A year earlier, a police intelligence unit fabricated evidence against eight Mapuches who were jailed for allegedly organizing attacks in the area.

Some 12% of Chile’s 19 million people are Mapuches descended from the country’s original people. Half of them live in poor rural communities.

The Spanish never managed to conquer the Mapuches, who were finally dominated by Chilean forces in the 18th century when they were pushed south and colonizers took over their lands.