World

Chile's Mapuche Indian conflict boils over with deadly arson attack but no solution in sight

  • In this Feb. 17, 2013 photo, Gerardo Purran Heiquillan, 20, poses for a portrait as he rests from dancing at a "Guillatun," a spiritual ceremony to ask for the well-being of the clan and strengthen ties in the Collico community in Ercilla, Chile. In the past five years, reported acts of violence from the Mapuche land struggle have escalated 10 times over, prompting a police response that the indigenous group say has been heavy handed and abusive. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

    In this Feb. 17, 2013 photo, Gerardo Purran Heiquillan, 20, poses for a portrait as he rests from dancing at a "Guillatun," a spiritual ceremony to ask for the well-being of the clan and strengthen ties in the Collico community in Ercilla, Chile. In the past five years, reported acts of violence from the Mapuche land struggle have escalated 10 times over, prompting a police response that the indigenous group say has been heavy handed and abusive. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Feb. 9, 2013 photo, Mapuche Indians from the Temucuicui Autonoma community wait to welcome members of other Mapuche communities to attend a "Guillatun," a spiritual ceremony to ask for the well-being of the clan and strengthen ties in Ercilla, Chile.  In the last three years, Chile's government has returned 10,000 hectares, or about 25,000 acres, to the Mapuche and encouraged timber companies and other landowners to allow the Mapuche to till small plots. Yet violence has only grown as the Mapuche demand the return of 750,000 hectares, or nearly 1.9 million acres, larger than the state of Delaware. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

    In this Feb. 9, 2013 photo, Mapuche Indians from the Temucuicui Autonoma community wait to welcome members of other Mapuche communities to attend a "Guillatun," a spiritual ceremony to ask for the well-being of the clan and strengthen ties in Ercilla, Chile. In the last three years, Chile's government has returned 10,000 hectares, or about 25,000 acres, to the Mapuche and encouraged timber companies and other landowners to allow the Mapuche to till small plots. Yet violence has only grown as the Mapuche demand the return of 750,000 hectares, or nearly 1.9 million acres, larger than the state of Delaware. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Feb. 10, 2013 photo, Mapuche Indians gather for a "Guillatun," a spiritual ceremony to ask for the well-being of the clan and strengthen ties in the Temucuicui Autonomous community in Ercilla, Chile. "We're not trying to kick anybody out," said Aucan Huilcaman, a Mapuche leader. "We're not asking for more roads or more seeds. We're asking for our own government because this is our land. It's not anti-Chilean, it's pro-Mapuche." (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

    In this Feb. 10, 2013 photo, Mapuche Indians gather for a "Guillatun," a spiritual ceremony to ask for the well-being of the clan and strengthen ties in the Temucuicui Autonomous community in Ercilla, Chile. "We're not trying to kick anybody out," said Aucan Huilcaman, a Mapuche leader. "We're not asking for more roads or more seeds. We're asking for our own government because this is our land. It's not anti-Chilean, it's pro-Mapuche." (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)  (The Associated Press)

The arson deaths of an elderly couple in their ranch home on land claimed by Mapuche Indians have cast a cold light on the indigenous group's struggle in southern Chile's Araucania region.

Chile's government has spent decades trying to appease Mapuche demands, but violence has only increased. Many blame Mapuche extremists and police overreaction for the current impasse.

Over the past five years, reported acts of violence from the Mapuche struggle have escalated 10 times over, prompting a police response that the indigenous group says has been heavy-handed and abusive.

Now, Chile's government is at an impasse over how to ease tensions. In the last three years, it has returned 10,000 hectare (25,000 acres) to the Mapuche and encouraged timber companies and other landowners to let people till small plots.