Latin America

Chile police chief asked to resign over Mapuche killing

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Chile's President Sebastián Piñera has asked the country's police chief, Hermes Soto, to stand down amid growing pressure over the death of an indigenous man five weeks ago.

Mr Piñera said Hermes Soto and 10 other police commanders should resign to make way for new leadership in the Chilean police.

The death of Camilo Catrillanca, 24, led to protests across the country.

Mr Catrillanca was a grandson of a Mapuche indigenous leader.

He was shot in the head as he drove a tractor in the south of the country on 14 November.

Police were carrying out a raid against a local gang of car thieves.

They said they had acted in self-defence, but two police videos appeared earlier this week showing that Mr Catrillanca was unarmed.

'Credibility crisis'

Following Mr Catrillanca's death, there were protests in the capital, Santiago, and incidents in the Araucanía region, where a church was set on fire and farmers were attacked.

Mr Piñera promised to find the truth about the "unfortunate death" of Mr Catrillanca.

"I've reached the conclusion that Chile's police needs new leadership to face, with more will, effectiveness and speed, all of today's problems and the big challenges of the future," he said during a press conference in the capital, Santiago.

He also vowed to act against police officers responsible for the "credibility crisis".

"A small group of police have betrayed their oath, dishonoured their institution and caused grave harm to society," added Mr Piñera.

Who are the Mapuche?

  • Before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th Century, the Mapuche inhabited a vast swathe of land in southern Chile
  • They resisted conquest until the late 19th Century, when they were rounded up into small communities
  • Much of their land was sold off to farmers and forestry companies
  • Some 9% of Chileans define themselves as Mapuche

The incident happened in Araucanía region in southern Chile, where Mapuche activists have clashed with logging companies and farmers.

Since returning to power last year, Mr Piñera vowed to prioritise solving the centuries-old conflict with the Mapuche.

He promised to invest in the region's infrastructure and also to tackle terrorism.

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