SANTIAGO – Some 5,000 people took part on Monday in a march to express support for Chile’s Mapuche Indians in their campaign to recover ancestral lands and traditional institutions.
The event was organized by various Mapuche organization based in the southern region of Araucania, the historic homeland of Chile’s largest indigenous group.
Though the procession in the Chilean capital was peaceful, it was followed by clashes between hooded militants and police, who deployed tear gas and water cannon and made 36 arrests.
Four police officers were injured, Col. Rene Martinez told the online edition of El Mercurio newspaper.
Many of the signs carried by participants in the march demanded the release of Francisca Linconao Huircapan, a Mapuche shaman accused in connection with the Jan. 4, 2013, fire that resulted in the deaths of Werner Luchsinger Lemp, 75, and his wife, Vivian Mackay Gonzalez, 69.
Police accuse Linconao of allowing her home to be used for the planning of the attack on the couple’s home near Temuco, capital of Araucania.
Mapuche Indian militants have torched vehicles, highway toll booths and lumber shipments in a bid to reclaim lands lost during a late-19th-century “pacification” campaign against the indigenous people of southern Chile.
The conflict has claimed the lives of Mapuche activists, police and farmers, while dozens of indigenous people have been sent to prison, mainly for crimes against property.
Mapuches make up around 650,000 of Chile’s 17 million people and are concentrated in Araucania and greater Santiago.