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Weichan Auka Mapu (WAM)

Updated: Jan 23

Insurgency Overview

Weichan Auka Mapu (WAM), which means “fight of the rebel territory” in Mapudungun (the Mapuche language), is a militant Mapuche insurgency organization in Chile. It currently operates in the Southern regions of Biobío, Arauco and Los Ríos where they have been active since around 2011 (1). The group's objective is the emancipation of the Mapuche people, henceforth classifying them as actors in the wider Mapuche Conflict (2). They are characterized by their incendiary attacks, acts of sabotage, their use of explosives, and their violent approach to their political struggle.

History, Foundations, & Ideology

Even though the Mapuche Conflict – in its current geopolitical state – can be traced back to the 19th century (2), the level of organization and the approaches of the actors involved have become more radical. The WAM is a very modern group, as its establishment took place after the Mapuche prisoners’ hunger strikes in 2010 (1). Although the WAM is usually believed to be a splinter group of the Coordinadora Arauco-Malleco (CAM) (1)(3), there is no confirmation of this coming from either group. In 2022, the congress of Chile declared the WAM – alongside other Mapuche groups – to be classified as a terrorist organization.

The WAM is characterized for being a very decentralized group (1) as there is no known leader or public spokesperson for the organization. There is also very little accessible information on the WAM (1), which makes its ideology more ambiguous than other Mapuche groups – such as the CAM which has a formally-compiled ideological framework. However, one can extrapolate ideas from their public messages to understand their motivations.

The WAM defines themselves as a revolutionary group (5) and defines capitalism as the common enemy of the Mapuche people (6). They establish that, in their territory, the capitalist system is embodied by the different active enterprises that can be found, such as the forestry industry, the mining industry, the power plants, and the latifundia (large ranches) (6)(7). Because of these factors, the group centers its attacks on these industries. These attacks are a form of direct action that – according to the WAM – is their way of gaining effective territorial control in order to make it a space where the Mapuche people are allowed to subsist under their own agenda (6). Despite these convictions, the WAM also renounces any kind of connection to what they determine as occidental ideologies, which includes social democracy, marxism, or even anarchism (8).

In more political terms, the WAM is against the Chilean state and they denounce formal Chilean politics and political groups, particularly the far-right and the center-left as these parties – according to the group – are mere puppets of the economic elite (5). They also criticize the historical role of the Chilean armed and police forces because of their past corruption cases and the acts of violence they enacted against the Chilean population; these institutions, according to the WAM, are the “guard dogs” of the elite (5).

Approach to Resistance

As previously stated, the approaches of the WAM revolve around forms of direct action. In this regard, they operate similarly to other Mapuche organizations such as the CAM where their main focus is the sabotage of infrastructure which belongs to the different industries that they consider to be enemies. WAM’s direct action has resulted in over 30 instances of sabotage in 2016 (8). Although these attacks may vary substantially, they are mainly incendiary and they target machinery which belongs to industries (9). They also attack the infrastructure of latifundia by burning cabins, dining rooms, cellars and chapels (10) and have stolen vehicles during their attacks (11). The group has also engaged in incendiary attacks against churches (3).

Alliances & Relations

While the WAM does indeed operate in the same territory as other Mapuche militant groups, there is no evidence of interference nor intertwining in each other's actions. Nonetheless, the CAM has criticized some of the attacks made by the WAM in the past, notably the incendiary attacks on churches. This was because – according to the CAM – they damage the legitimacy of their cause (3). In various public statements, the group has also condemned criminal actions which are not in line with the political objectives of the WAM. These condemnations are often formulated by the WAM in a way which emphasizes that these actions are opportunist components which wrongly utilize the Mapuche name to seek personal advantage, which in turn hinders the Mapuche movement’s credibility. They define those responsible for such acts as political exploiters, “fight” merchants, or even individuals with warlord tendencies (5)(6).

Works Cited (Chicago-style)

(1) - “Weichan Auka Mapu: que se sabe de la “hermetica” organización armada investigada por la fiscalía de la araucanía,” The Clinic, november 5, 2021.

(2) - Balbontin-Gallo, Cristobal. “El conflicto mapuche como lucha por el reconocimiento: La necesidad de una nueva clave de lectura,” Izquierdas 49, (February, 2020): 330-340.

(3) - Segovia, Pablo, Fernanda Osorio, Mariana Aillon and Oscar Basulto. “La construcción discursiva del acontecimiento “quema de iglesias” en el marco del conflicto mapuche: una mirada desde el análisis del discurso.” Boletín de Filología 2, (2019) 319-149.

(4) - Gomez, Rodrigo. “Cámara de Diputados declara a la CAM y otras tres organizaciones radicales como “asociaciones ilícitas de carácter terrorista”,” La tercera, June 1, 2022.

(5) - “[Comunicado] Weichan auka mapu reafirma compromiso revolucionario en acciones de sabotaje a intereses capitalistas” November 4, 2021.

(6) - “Nación Mapuche. A través de un comunicado público la WAM (wichan auka mapu-lucha por el territorio) niega tener participación en el crimen del comunero mapuche asesinado a tiros en el sur, la semana pasada.” May 15, 2022.

(7) - [Comunicado] “Weichan auka mapu reivindica dos sabotajes a faenas de monocultivo forestal en tolten y carahue.” December 2, 2021.

(8) - “Grupo en resistencia Weichan Auka Mapu reivindica más de treinta acciones de sabotaje” Resumen. April 21, 2016.

(9) - Valenzuela, Paola. “Weichan Auka Mapu se adjudica ataque incendiario perpetrado en forestal de Lebu.” Radio Biobio. November 7, 2022.

(10) - Zamorano, Carlos and Sofia Roblero. “Organización Weichan Auka Mapu se adjudica ataque incendiario a instalaciones de fundo en Panguipulli” La Tercera. July 30, 2022.

(11) - “Descarrilamiento de tren en la Araucanía: encapuchados diversifican tipos de atentados frente a despliegue militar” Ex-ante. November 2, 2021.

Additional Resources

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