Vandals in Chile burn bus in protest of Pope’s visit
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chilean police say that hooded vandals burned a bus and scattered pamphlets in protest of an upcoming visit by Pope Francis to a southern region that the Mapuche indigenous group claims as its ancestral territory.
Police said Friday that the arson attack took place in the Araucania region, about 370 miles (600 kilometers) south of the Chilean capital. The pamphlets read: “Fire to the churches. Pope Francis: You’re not welcome to Araucania.”
Francis will visit Chile from Jan. 15-18, and he will lead a mass in Temuco, the capital of the Araucania region, on Jan. 17.
The Mapuche are Chile’s largest indigenous group. They resisted the Spanish conquest for 300 years until military defeats in the late 19th century forced them into Araucania, south of the Bio Bio river. The government then encouraged European immigrants to colonize the area.
Most of the indigenous people there now live in poverty on the fringes of land used by timber companies or ranches owned by the descendants of the European colonists.
Some radical factions of the Mapuche have torched churches, farms and lumber trucks to demand the return of land. But Chilean police have been accused of violent abuses, including storming into Mapuche homes during raids and shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at women and children.