By Nathan Gill
Oct. 14 (Bloomberg) — Chile will use an anti-terrorism law criticized by human rights groups to try and quell a spate of violence over indigenous lands in the country’s south, a government official said.
The government will apply the law, dating from the military dictatorship, against those responsible for armed attacks against trucks and light vehicles in the southern Araucania region, Patricio Rosende, the deputy interior minister, said in a statement on the Interior Ministry’s Web site.
The United Nations and Human Rights Watch have criticized use of the law against Chile’s indigenous minorities on concern that it gives the government powers it doesn’t have in regular criminal proceedings and limits access to lawyers by the accused.
Groups claiming to be part of Chile’s Mapuche indigenous community have seized private property and obstructed highways to protest the loss of land they claim belonged to their ancestors. In August, police killed a 24-year-old man during a gun fight to retake a rural property, newspaper El Mercurio said.
The government will “hunt these groups of people that only want to cause disorder, commit crimes and make trouble,” Rosende said. “This has absolutely nothing to do with the demands of the Mapuches. The people in these groups, whether they are Mapuches or not, are criminals.”