The social and political tensions that have occurred in Chile in recent years have at their core some demands that can be met. However, misinformation and conflicts stimulated by political calculations have had a crucial influence on much of the violence also unleashed with surprising synchronicity.
One flank within the Chilean conflict system is around the old “Mapuche problem” that has been pushed to the point of derailing it from institutional channels for treatment and possible resolution. Violence has since dominated the contexts.
The links between minority, but highly violent, Mapuche sectors and the transnational networks of the extreme Latin American left are bearing fruit in terms of political and economic destabilization in Chile.
In southern territories such as Araucania, the presence of extremist agents has been detected. These are channeled via the proximity to indigenous leaders who are recruited and encouraged to cross over from political and ideological radicalization.
The proximity, for example, of Mapuche leaders such as Héctor Llautil of the Coordinadora Arauco-Mellaco (CAM), with the number two Chavista in Venezuela Diosdado Cabello, as well as with Jaime Castillo Petruzzi, an old acquaintance in Peru as the high commander of the once terrorist group Túpac Amaru, MRTA, reveals the influence and scope of a conflict that has been of great interest – and for a long time – to transnational leftist extremism.
The records that various security and intelligence systems in the region have revealed about these links are old. Colombia’s narco-guerrilla FARC was also identified as a contributor to these violent challenges. According to information from the Colombian National Police (2015), the FARC “gave training in Chile to radical Mapuche groups between 2009 and 2010.”
Certainly, it is estimated that the majority of Mapuche sectors with manageable demands are aware that the conflicts must be channeled institutionally. They have thus shown themselves to be at odds with the violence.
As noted, the focus has been on the Chilean Jaime Castillo Petruzzi, a former member of the Peruvian terrorist group Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, MRTA. This ranked operator of extremism was released from prison and expelled from Peru to Chile where he now seeks to reheat the conflicts to their maximum temperatures. Castillo Petruzzi (who served 23 years in prison on Peruvian soil for crimes of terrorism and as a member of the MRTA leadership) was denounced in February 2020 by the Chilean Ministry of the Interior for the crime of “apology or propaganda of doctrines, systems or methods that advocate crime or violence in any of its forms, as a means to achieve political, economic or social change or reform.”
Expelled from Peru and returning to Chile in 2016, the ex-emerretist has not been oblivious to the ideologized profitability and the power of political risk that the “Mapuche conflict” represents. At the beginning of 2020, during the presentation of a book on the “thought and action of the CAM” (Coordinadora Arauco-Mellaco, which has been accused of carrying out terror acts in some regions of the Chilean south), Petruzzi prescribed to his audience:
“There is not going to be a possible solution, if we do not make the backbone of the defense of the State collapse, which is the armed forces, the police. (…) The only space that exists here is for concrete struggle in the street, or in the countryside, or in the mountains, as is done in the south of Chile, in Wallmapu. (…) It is effectively a guerrilla war, of attrition, political-military sabotage. The more the struggle of the Chilean people advances in the cities and the countryside, the more the struggle of the brotherly Mapuche people will also be able to advance. The more the struggle of the Mapuche people advances, the more we are going to advance.”
This type of infiltration has been repeated in several countries in the region. The extreme left has seen the opportunity to push processes of radicalization that easily cross over into violent extremism and then acts of terrorism. They are real drivers of violence that operate through their franchises regardless of borders.
In these confrontational efforts, political objectives are overlapping with criminal and illicit activity objectives – such as drug trafficking.
The scenarios do not show simple “rural violence” or common crimes. Terrorist tactics have been developed in the face of the capitulation or lack of caution on the part of public and political decision makers, law enforcement agencies, and even security forces.
At the same time, there are no governmental or non-governmental efforts to mount and adapt programs to counter violent extremism and to accommodate de-radicalization among inadvertent youth.
In the region, the outcome of conflicts has been left to the discretion of radicalizing and proviolent agents. Can what are now clearly politically motivated acts of terrorism continue to be called “rural violence” in Chile? Similarly, can the ideologically and politically motivated attacks on private property in the agricultural sector continue to be called “rural insecurity” in Argentina?
The stimulated violence that occurs in Chile – where fires are the biggest mark of violence – for years can be replicated in other countries of the continent via slow polls, the penetration of social conflicts and the calculated manipulation of claims. The lethality may increase if impunity is overcome and if pro-terrorist cells connect with criminal networks that are not alien to political and power drives in the territories where they seek to root their actions and influence.
The majority of Mapuche sectors do well to take a distance from the calculating actors who have infiltrated their legitimate demands. They should raise their voices even more strongly against violence and not stop betting on channeling tensions in an institutional way without playing into the hands of those who seek to make chaos the ladder to success.