SANTIAGO ( Associated Press) — President Gabriel Boric on Monday extended the validity of a state of emergency for the military to continue guarding the main highways of two regions in southern Chile, although he rejected the demands of the conservative opposition and one of the coalitions pro-government supporters to extend the protection of the armed forces to urban areas and secondary routes.
In the so-called “southern macrozone”, formed by La Araucanía and Biobío, indigenous Mapuches demand the restitution of ancestral territories. To this demand have been added several violent groups that carry out armed and arson attacks against machinery of forestry companies, large agricultural estates, churches, schools and trucks, among others. In addition, in the surroundings there are thefts of wood from forestry companies and drug trafficking, according to regional authorities. A forest worker was killed in the area and two others were injured a week ago.
The Minister of the Interior, Izkia Siches, announced that the state of emergency is extended “in the same terms.” The state of emergency allows the president to use the armed forces in situations of disturbance of public order, although they are not prepared for it and use weapons of war unlike the police.
Boric reluctantly decreed a state of emergency for 15 days – which expires on Tuesday – in the entire region of La Araucanía and in two provinces of Biobío, some 600 kilometers south of Santiago, where the violence that has dragged on for decades has increased in the last months. With the military guarding the main roads, a worker was killed on an interior route when he was traveling with about twenty other workers.
The president was forced to dictate a state of emergency after his main coalition – formed by the Communist Party and the leftist Broad Front – denied him the votes to approve an “intermediate state”, in which the military would be led by a civilian and did not have the power to restrict the rights of assembly and mobilization.
Although Boric had reiterated that he would not impose the state of emergency, he changed his mind after the increase in violence and pressure from truckers who blocked the main Chilean highway for several days after an armed attack that seriously injured a driver at the end of April and the simultaneous burning of 33 trucks.
The extension of the state of emergency is known less than 48 hours after Boric delivered his first message to the country and less than three months after he came to power. Among his main concerns are the violence in the south, the increase in crime in urban areas and a rising inflation that reaches 10.5% in twelve months.