Chile: Mapuche Teens Takeover Town to End “Police Brutality”

A decades-old is heating up as Chilean cities spend their winter under a blanket of protests. Forty teenagers staged a toma, or takeover, in Ercilla.

byKatie Manning
30 August 2011

Photo By: Leyla Noriega Zegarra

A decades-old debate over a 150-year-old conflict is heating up as Chilean cities spend their winter under a blanket of protests. Forty teenagers, part of 700,000 Mapuche Indians out of 17 million people in Chile, staged a toma, or takeover, in Ercilla. The small forest-farming town, 600 kilometers south of Santiago, frequently hosts brawls between the police force and Mapuche.

Since August 19, the 11-to-17-year-olds occupied the town’s government center. They’re not giving it back, they said, until Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter hears out their grievances over the “constant police presence” and a lack of intercultural education.

The clock is ticking according to Camilo Catrilanca, the 16-year-old spokesperson of the toma. “We’re not going anywhere. We haven’t had an answer,” said Catrilanca.

Mayor of Ercilla José Vilugrón said the government won’t resort to violence to break up the students’ toma. He sent a proposal over to La Moneda, Chile’s presidential palace, with recommendations on how resolve the issues. But the local governor, Miguel Mellado, said if they don’t go willingly, he will forcibly remove the students from the building. Continue reading