The Mapuche Conflict (also referred to as the conflict between the Chilean State and the Mapuche people) is a collective name for the revival and reorganization of Mapuche communities for greater autonomy, recognition of rights, and the recovery of land since the Chilean transition to democracy. The Mapuche conflict is a phenomenon mainly from Chile, but also from neighboring areas of Argentina. Demands revolve mainly around three themes: jurisdictional autonomy, return of ancestral lands, and cultural identity. The Mapuche conflict has generated debates that take place in different areas, from the legal discussion through the historiographic controversy about their status as indigenous peoples to the controversial use of the term of terrorist. Historian Gonzalo Vial claims that a "historical debt" exists towards the Mapuche by the Republic of Chile, whereas the Coordinadora Arauco-Malleco aims at a national liberation of Mapuches.
The Mapuche conflict surfaced in the 1990s following the return of democracy. The conflict started in areas inhabited mostly by Mapuches like the vicinities of Purén, where some indigenous communities have been demanding that certain lands they claim for their own but which are now the property of logging and farming companies and individuals be turned over to them. Several Mapuche organizations are demanding the right of self-recognition in their quality of Indigenous peoples, as recognized under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the General Assembly of the United Nations.
The official 2002 Chilean census found 609,000 Chileans identifying as Mapuches. The same survey determined that 35 percent of the nation's Mapuches think the biggest issue for the government to resolve relates to their ancestral properties. The official 2012 Chilean census found the number of Mapuches in Chile to be 1,508,722.
The building of the Ralco Hydroelectric Plant, Chile's largest hydroelectric power plant, in the 1990s was highly controversial among Mapuches and pro-Mapuche groups as it was to flood allegedly sacred land including one Mapuche cemetery. After compensations were paid the plant was finally finished in 2004.
Numerous incidents such as violent land occupations, burning of private property and demonstrations have occurred in Araucania. In the wake of the recent deaths of a few of its activists, Mapuche organization Coordinadora Arauco-Malleco has played a key role by organizing and supporting violent land occupations and other direct actions, such as burning of houses and farms, that have ended up in clashes with the police. The government of Michelle Bachelet has said that it is not ready to contemplate expropriating land in the southern region of Araucania to restore lost ancestral territory to the Mapuche.
The government set out to buy land for use by 115 Mapuche communities, however, according to government officials, the current owners have nearly tripled the prices they are demanding. On the other hand, the effectiveness of the government policy of buying and distributing land has been questioned. Two special presidential envoys were sent to southern Chile to review the increasingly fractious “Mapuche situation”.
Between 2010 and 2011, a series of hunger strikes by Mapuche community members imprisoned in Chilean prisons to protest against the conditions in which the proceedings against them took place, mainly due to the application of the antiterrorist law, and for the double prosecutions they were subject to, because parallel proceedings were carried out in the ordinary and military courts.
A march was held in commemoration of the death of Matías Catrileo held in Santiago in January 2013. During the march a group of masked men attacked banks and threw molotov cocktails. Later the same group caused incidents near Estación Mapocho. The commemoration was associated by newspaper La Tercera with the assault and torching of a truck in Chile Route 5 in Araucanía Region.
In the morning of January 4, 2013 the agricultural business couple Luchsinger-Mackay died in a fire in their house in Vilcún, Araucanía Region. The prosecutor said it was arson in a preliminary report and newspaper La Tercera linked it to the commemoration of the death of Matías Catrileo and to the truck burning the previous days. A relative of the dead persons claimed there was a campaign to empty the region of farmers and businessmen adding that "the guerrilla is winning" and lamented the "lack of rule of law". A male activist wounded by a bullet was detained by police 600 m from the torched house. A thesis claims the house was attacked by at least seven persons and that the "machi" had received the bullet wound from the occupants of the house before dying in the fire.
On April 30 a freight train was derailed near Collipulli to be then assaulted by men with firearms. Interior minister Andrés Chadwick said the Chilean Antiterrorist Law will be applied to those responsible for the attack.
Since 2016, there has been an increase in attacks in the region, especially against churches, machinery, forest industries, and security forces. For their part, "the military police (GOPE) often intervene violently, on the side of the companies, intimidating the Mapuche communities, acting indiscriminately against women or minors." The priest Carlos Bresciani, SJ, who has spent fifteen years heading the Jesuit Mapuche Mission in Tirúa, doesn't see autonomy coming easily, given the disposition of the Chilean Senate, but he says "The underlying problem is how communities participate in decision-making in their own territories". Bresciani observed that the violence "reflects that there is an open wound." In January 2018, while saying Mass before thousands at Temuco, "the de facto capital of the Mapuche community", Pope Francis called for an end to the violence, and for solidarity in support of the Mapuche cause.
In the course of events, 1 casualty was recorded in 2016 and 1 in 2017.