Arsonists target Cermaq Chile again

Published on
February 1, 2021

Cermaq Chile has been targeted for a second time in under a year by arsonists, who broke into a smolt facility owned by the company on Thursday, 28 January, and set the offices and warehouses ablaze.

A group of five hooded vandals broke into the site – which is operated by Yadran and located in the Collín sector, in the city of Lautaro in southern Chile's Araucanía Region – at around 1:15 p.m. local time, and started intimidating the workers before setting the fires.

Following the arson attack, the vandals stole a truck belonging to the facility’s manager and used the vehicle to escape, local publication FM Like reported, citing local police reports. In their escape, the suspects also reportedly stopped a logging truck approximately five kilometers away, shot at the windshield and forced the driver to get out and run away, shooting at him in the process. However, there were no injuries reported in the incident.

Shotgun shells and a pamphlet citing the so-called “Mapuche Cause” were apparently found at the site of the incident. About one-quarter of the population in the Araucanía region is considered a member of the Mapuche indigenous peoples, versus 4 percent nationwide, and some radical groups have demanded indigenous independence from the Chilean state and the return of their lands.

In May 2020, similar pamphlets were reportedly left on the premises of Cermaq Chile’s Coipué salmon farm, also located in the Araucanía region, by a group that perpetrated an arson attack during which the company’s administrative office was burned to the ground.

The city of Lautaro itself is named after a Mapuche leader known for leading the indigenous resistance against Spanish conquest in Chile during the 1500s. In recent years, radical groups aligned with the Mapuche cause have carried out attacks on the Cermaq facility, as well as on logging companies and their trucks. Logging activity has been criticized by Mapuche and environmentalist groups for its infringement on native, slow-growing species and its replanting of faster-growing, non-native pine and eucalyptus trees. The region itself is named after the Araucaria tree, which is considered sacred to the Mapuche people and can grow for 2,000 years or more.

The latest occurrence “has nothing to do with Cermaq or Yadran and fortunately the workers were unharmed," a Cermaq representative told Salmon Expert.

"The pertinent authorities have already been notified and all the information is being collected for the corresponding investigation to be carried out,” the Cermaq spokesperson said. "We strongly regret and reject any type of violence that violates the people’s right to develop their activities in safety and peace, and we call on the authorities for those responsible to be identified soon."

In turn, the Salmon Council – comprised of the companies AquaChile, Cermaq, Mowi, and Salmones Aysén – condemned the arson attack.

“We regret these events that greatly affect the development of a productive activity, along with putting the safety of the workers and the surrounding communities at risk," it said. "Violence will never be the way to resolve differences."

The Salmon Council said it hoped those responsible for the arson will be caught and called for institutional channels to resolve any conflict.

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