The Araucania region, where activists burned a bus Friday, has long been a site of attempts by the Mapuche to reclaim land annexed by Chile in the late 1900s
Hooded activists in Chile have burned a bus and scattered pamphlets in protest of an upcoming visit by Pope Francis to a southern region claimed by the Mapuche indigenous group as its ancestral territory.
Police said on 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 15-18 January, and he will lead a mass in Temuco, the capital of the Araucania region, on 17 January.
The Mapuche are Chile’s largest indigenous group. They resisted the Spanish conquest for 300 years until the Chilean military in the late 19th century forcibly “pacified” 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.