Chile President Sebastin Piera Decrees State of Emergency in Nation's South

President Sebastin Piera 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 Biobo region and 32 in La Araucana. In the latter region, violence and conflicts have dragged on for decades, including attacks on forestry machinery and trucks. In Biobo, which neighbors La Araucana, arsonists burned two churches, one Roman Catholic, one Evangelical.

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

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 Araucana 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 Chiles 19 million people are Mapuches descended from the countrys 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.

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