The Chilean government has ordered the redeployment of the nation’s military to the restive La Araucanía region in the south of the country, in the face of mounting violence linked to territorial claims by Mapuche indigenous groups.
"We have decided to use all tools to guarantee security," Interior Minister Izkia Siches said after announcing the move on Monday.
Soldiers were deployed to Araucanía and to towns in the neighbouring Biobío region in October last year on the orders of conservative then-president Sebastián Piñera (2018-2022).
New leader Gabriel Boric promised to withdraw the soldiers while campaigning for the presidency earlier this year and the process began on March 27.
But after attempting in vain to win approval from Congress for an "intermediate" deployment – and in the face of a surge in arson – he was forced to reimpose emergency measures.
"It is evident that in recent times we have had an increase in acts of violence on the roads, such as extended roadblocks that put free transit at risk and cut off supply chains, increasing the cost of living in the most deprived areas of our country," said Siches.
The official said Boric’s government would pursue a policy of dialogue with the Mapuche community and continue its land purchases in the area while maintaining the state of emergency.
"These conflicts make it more difficult to implement development projects, perpetuating conditions of poverty and inequality" in the region, she added.
Some communities in southern Chile have for decades demanded the return of lands they argue belong to them by virtue of ancestral rights – lands which are mainly held by forestry companies and farmers.
Radical indigenous groups have claimed responsibility for some attacks in the area, though there are also reports of vigilante groups dedicated to lumber theft and petty crime operating in the region.