Chile’s Boric slams ‘terrorist’ violence in rural south in rhetorical shift

Chilean President Gabriel Boric walks with an army member while arriving in Araucania region, in Temuco, Chile, November 10, 2022. Fernando Ramirez/Chile Presidency/Handout via REUTERS

Chile’s President Gabriel Boric condemned “terrorist” violence during a visit to the country’s restive southern region on Thursday, a rhetorical shift for the leader who had pledged to focus on dialogue with indigenous local Mapuche groups and eschew former President Sebastian Pinera’s militarization of the region.

Several arson attacks and blockades took place early Thursday morning ahead of his visit to the Araucania region, where Mapuche groups have been demanding the return of ancestral lands for years. Trucks and trains have been attacked.

“If they think they are going to intimidate me or this government, they are very wrong,” Boric said during a press conference, referring to “acts of a terrorist nature”.

During the young left-wing president’s first week in office this year, his then interior minister saw her visit to the region interrupted by gunfire. Boric later reinstated a state of emergency, keeping a strong military presence in the region.

Boric compared Thursday’s arson attacks, which included a school and a church, to Nazis burning synagogues in the 1930s and the Chilean military dictatorship burning books in 1973.

During the speech, Boric announced that the government would create two support centers for victims of violence in the region. He said the government would also increase surveillance on major transport routes and focus on combating wood theft, arms control and improving food security.

“We haven’t been capable as a state to solve the lag in terms of poverty,” Boric said. “And we haven’t found a path that’s lasted to find peace.”


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