According to local media, the son of a Mapuche Leader was shot dead by police on Friday in Chile’s restive Araucania province, a blow to efforts to repair relations between the state and indigenous people.
The incident, which occurred during a standoff between police and alleged invaders at a forestry company, is expected to exacerbate regional tensions. Indigenous peoples have contended for decades that agribusiness and forestry firms, with official involvement, have illegally requisitioned their land.
According to media sources quoting the Chilean prosecutor’s office, the victim was Ernesto Llaitul, 26. Hector Llaitul, a Mapuche leader and spokesperson for the activist group Coordinadora Arauco – Malleco, was his father.
Mijael Carbone Queipul, the leader of another local organization, the Mapuche Territorial Alliance, also named Ernesto Llaitul as the victim in a statement on Twitter.
The Chilean Police have declined to comment, and the public prosecutor has not responded to a request for comment from Reuters.
Chile’s Human Rights Institute said the shooting would “further exacerbate the complex situation in the region,” calling for a “prompt, deep and transparent investigation.”
The incident took place around 5:30 p.m. (2130 GMT) at the Santa Ana-Tres Palos farm in Carahue, 55 km (35 miles) west of the regional capital Temuco, the reports said.
Police said a group of hooded individuals arrived at the farm and fired on an employee, prompting an armed police operation, according to local news station Mega.
In 2018, Camilo Catrillanca, 24, the grandson of a local indigenous leader, was shot in the head during a police operation in a rural community near the town of Ercilla, triggering nationwide protests. Seven police officers were convicted in connection with that shooting.
Last week, 155 Chilean citizens writing a new constitution chose a Mapuche academic, Elisa Loncon, to lead them, marking a dramatic shift from the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship’s constitution, which did not recognize indigenous people.
If Llaitul’s death is confirmed, it will be a “severe blow to the conversation between the Mapuche nation and the Chilean state that has been launched through the constitutional process,” according to Claudio Nash, a law professor at the University of Chile.