With a population of 1.3 million people, the Mapuche are currently the largest indigenous group in Chile. Before 1881, the group functioned as an independent nation, but their political and territorial sovereignty was revoked after Chileans declared their independence from Spain. Since then, the government has forced the Mapuche to live on small “reducciones” (reserves) and allowed private lumber firms to expropriate their land.
On September 11, 1973, a military coup forced the democratically elected Chilean President Salvador Allende out of power. After the coup Augusto Pinochet established himself as the leader of Chile and set up a military dictatorship with the heavy involvement of his army. During this regime, Pinochet used repressive measures to suppress opposition to his rule, and supported politics that divided any opposition groups. Pinochet moved the country’s economic system away from socialist policies towards a market economy, gaining the support of the pro-capitalist portions of the
In February 1931, in the face of an economic crisis, the Chilean Congress granted President Carlos Ibáñez Del Campo authority to enact any necessary measures to keep Chile from further depression. As the value of exports dropped and unemployment rose, Ibáñez increased taxes, stopped public works projects, and cut governmental wages. He also announced that he would maintain order with military force if necessary.