Chile Mapuche leader's house burned in suspected arson

Funeral of Juan Carlos Cordero, one of the firefighters on 8 January 8, 2012. The firefighters worked for a forestry company in Araucania

Related Stories

A suspicious blaze has destroyed the home of an indigenous Mapuche leader in Chile, amid tension over a spate of forest fires.

The suspected arson in Araucania, a region beset by land conflict, happened as the funerals were held for seven firefighters.

Chilean authorities have suggested Mapuche activists may have been behind the fire that killed the men last week.

The activists say the government is trying to criminalise their movement.

On Sunday, Mapuche leader Jose Santos Millao's home was wrecked by a fire while he was attending the firefighters' funeral.

Hours later, hooded men also burned the home of a retired military officer and shot at police officers, officials said.

The latest developments came after Chilean President Sebastian Pinera invoked an anti-terror law to pursue those responsible for the deadly blaze that killed the firefighters.

"Deliberate fires are terrorist crimes," Mr Pinera said.

Mr Santos Millao told Chilean radio that the situation in Araucania was "quite agitated" and that invoking the terror law before the cause of the fires was established amounted to a "declaration of war".

Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter had indicated that a radical Mapuche group, Coordinadora Arauco Malleco (CAM) may have been behind Thursday's blaze.

The group has previously been accused of arson, and some of its leaders are in jail.

Other Mapuche activists, who say forestry companies have taken over their ancestral lands, have rejected this.

They say the forest fires are party due to the introduction of exotic tree species that have worsened the summer drought.

Across central and southern Chile, wildfires have burned about 500sq km (190 square miles) of forest and grassland in recent days.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Latin America & Caribbean stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • FordFactory facelift

    Watch as the plant that makes Ford's legendary F-150 undergoes a total overhaul

Programmes

  • Models of roads and cars on a bridgeThe Travel Show Watch

    A world in miniature - behind the scenes at one of the world’s largest model railways

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.