Two members of Chile’s indigenous Mapuche community died and three others were injured in clashes with security forces on Wednesday, the government said.
The fighting unfolded in the southern province of Arauco, an area in a state of emergency since last month amid escalating violence.
The incident occurred a day after President Sebastian Pinera said he asked Congress to extend the state of emergency and the deployment of military forces in four provinces in Biobio and La Araucania regions, including Arauco.
“I can confirm two deaths so far and I can confirm three injured who arrived in different hospitals,” Interior Minister Rodrigo Delgado said in the capital Santiago.
The minister said the deaths occurred in two attacks on hooded men near the town of Canete, 640 kilometers (400 miles) south of Santiago.
The deceased, two members of the Mapuche community aged 23 and 44, died of gunshot wounds, health officials said. The prosecution reported the arrest of three people.
The state of emergency was adopted by Pinera on October 12, a date which commemorates the arrival of the Spanish colonizers in the Americas and which has become controversial.
The president then extended for 15 days the militarization of these regions, which have experienced a historic conflict between the Mapuche people – the largest indigenous community in Chile – and the state.
Indigenous peoples demand from the state the restitution of lands which they consider to be theirs by ancestral right and which have been handed over to private companies, mainly logging companies and landowners.
The lack of a solution to Mapuche claims has prompted radical groups to carry out attacks on trucks and private property over the past decade.
One person was killed and 17 injured last month when clashes broke out in Santiago between security forces and protesters marching for Mapuche autonomy.
The clashes also highlighted the presence of drug trafficking and self-defense groups, as well as police operations denounced as montages by locals.
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