Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on Tuesday decreed a state of emergency in the southern provinces of Biobio, Arauco, Malleco and Cautin, amid an escalation of violence in the conflict involving the indigenous Mapuche people.
“The serious situation requires the state to make use of institutional means, and constitutional mechanisms and laws to protect the population, safeguard public order and the rule of law, and ensure constitutionally recognized rights,” the president said from the government palace in Santiago, Xinhua news agency reported.
The state of emergency will last for 15 days and may be extended for another 15 days, in accordance with the Chilean Constitution.
The long-running conflict, which has persisted for decades between Mapuche indigenous communities claiming their ancestral lands and agricultural or forestry companies with deeds to the land, has led to outbursts of violence in recent years, with several community members, police and farmers being killed.
Mapuche groups are demanding the restitution of their ancestral lands in the Biobio and La Araucania regions in southern Chile.