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Truck, machinery set ablaze in restive Chile's Araucania region

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By Reuters

SANTIAGO – A group of unidentified individuals on Thursday set fire to two dozen trucks and machinery in Chile’s southern Araucania region that for years has been marked by conflicts between the government and the Mapuche ethnic group.

The incident occurred at Empresa de Camiones y Aridos Transa, a firm that provides services to the forestry industry and extracts aggregates for construction. It was the second time the firm had been the victim of an attack.

Arauco provincial delegate Humberto Toro told local radio Cooperativa that more than 25 of the company’s machines and trucks were burned.

Last month, Interior Minister Izkia Siches’s visit to the restive region of Araucania was interrupted by gunshots near her motorcade, forcing her to temporarily take shelter in a police station.

Siches’s visit was to start a dialogue to address conflicts in Araucania between authorities and local Mapuche indigenous groups in the southern region.

The Mapuche have for years demanded the return of their ancestral lands, which were handed over to the private sector that exploits the land in the lucrative forestry sector.

In recent years, attacks that include the burning of houses, trucks and machinery have intensified in the area.

“The attack in Los Alamos, Los Rios sector, shows that the province of Arauco is a lawless land,” the Chilean National Confederation of Truck Owners (CNDC) said in a statement.

The CNDC argued authorities are “completely overwhelmed.”

The perpetrators left slogans at the site of the latest attack demanding freedom for “Mapuche political prisoners,” local radio reported.

Reuters could not independently verify the claim.