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Last month, a Fepasa train was attacked by Mapuche gunmen, who opened fire on the crew. (Photo: Fepasa)
Monday, May 20, 2013

Chile Terror Risk Rises

Chile’s terrorism risk is rising, with Mapuche target set widening.

Exclusive Analysis

On April 30, 2013, 11 wagons of a freight train belonging to transport company FEPASA were derailed near Collipulli, Araucania by sabotage of the track. Gunmen opened fire on the train's crew and attempted to burn its cargo of silicon, used in the manufacture of wood pulp. The train crew identified their attackers as Mapuche.

Since the 1990s, violent factions of the Mapuche people have engaged in a violent campaign for land and autonomy rights within their ancestral territory in Araucania, primarily involving the occupation of disputed land and arson attacks targeting the timber industry and government assets in the region. The derailment of the FEPASA train is the most significant attack to date. The attack coincides with a continued increase in Mapuche civil unrest in 2013, following the hitherto most violent year in over a decade in 2012.

The government and security forces' response to an increase in Mapuche-attributed attacks is likely to risk provoking further violence. In January 2013, following an increase in attacks, the government announced it would apply the Anti-terrorism Law to those responsible for arson in the Mapuche zone in Araucania. The law, which authorizes the judiciary to double or even triple normal prison sentences, will also be applied to anyone convicted of the train attack. The use of this law, and the popular perception that police often use heavy-handed tactics against Mapuche, are likely to encourage Mapuche retaliatory attacks against state and commercial targets.


The attack on the FEPASA train demonstrates that the Mapuche now regard legitimate targets for sabotage as extending beyond established forestry firms to contractors associated with the wood pulp and timber industry. FEPASA transports the chemical for forestry firm Silica Arauco, whose plantations, trucks and machinery have previously been attacked by Mapuche militants. Other forestry firms operating in Araucania include Forestal Mininco S.A., Forestal Celco S.A. and Masisa S.A.

Arson is likely to be the most favored form of attack against forestry firms, cargo trucks and government property. An airport under construction at Padre las Casas has been targeted for arson and disruption of road access. Cargo risk is highest on the stretch of Route 5 (Pan American Highway) between Collipulli and Victoria (particularly near Ercilla) and on inter-city roads 182, R-50, R-86 and R-90. Mapuche militant groups are unlikely to have the capacity to expand their target set outside Araucania, except for those parts of Biobio and Los Rios regions which border Araucanía.

Carlos Caicedo is head of the Latin America division at Exclusive Analysis, a UK-based global risk consultancy recently acquired by IHS.


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