In June 2016, four indigenous Mapuche individuals were arrested in Chile on charges of arson and subsequently prosecuted under Chile’s controversial Antiterrorism Law. Chile’s Antiterrorism Law, which was passed in 1984 under the oppressive military regime of Augusto Pinochet, has been applied to several crimes committed by Mapuche individuals since 2001. These crimes have been part of a broader Mapuche campaign for land restitution in southern Chile––and have mostly targeted crops, farming equipment, and machinery rather than people. (Sources: United Nations Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Al Jazeera, BBC News)

Chile’s Antiterrorism Law has been heavily and repeatedly criticized by the United Nations and human rights groups for permitting the violation of civil liberties, as it allows suspects to be held in isolation uncharged as well as unidentified witnesses to be used in investigations. Furthermore, its application to Mapuche crimes––many of which target private property and inflict no casualties––has been denounced as an arbitrary invocation aimed at discriminating against the indigenous nation. Although Chile declared its intention to reform the law in March 2018, the proposed reforms, which would allow the use of phone taps and undercover agents as well as the continued use of unidentified witnesses in investigations, have been criticized as being equally harsh and discriminatory. (Sources: United Nations Human Rights, Amnesty International, Globe and Mail, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch, República de Chile Senado, Universidad de Chile, El Mostrador)

Overview

Throughout Chile’s history, episodes of political unrest have given rise to various forms of extremism in the country. Both radical left- and right-wing guerrilla movements emerged in opposition to the government in the 1960s and early 1970s. On September 11, 1973, General Augusto Pinochet seized power in a violent coup d’état. The ensuing seventeen years under Pinochet’s military regime were marked by government oppression. Over 3,000 individuals were killed or went missing at the hands of the regime, and at least 30,000 more were subject to human rights violations such as arbitrary detention and torture. Additional leftist insurgent groups emerged in the 1980s in opposition to the dictatorship, though their violent activities continued beyond Chile’s return to democracy in 1990. An amnesty law implemented in 1978 to protect the leaders of the military regime remains in place today. (Sources: Biblioteca Nacional de Chile, CNN Chile, BBC News, El País, El País, El Mundo, Federation of American Scientists, Federation of American Scientists, La Tercera, BBC News, Amnesty International, Biblioteca de Chile)

Chile also has a history of Nazism. Recently declassified files revealed that several Nazi supporters operated in Chile during the Second World War, and Chile harbored several former members of the Third Reich after the defeat of Nazi Germany. Some neo-Nazi sentiment has also resurfaced and led to violence in Chile in recent years. For example, in January 2017, three neo-Nazi men attacked a gay Jewish activist in Santiago, injuring him. (Sources: Telegraph, Reuters, History, Emol, Jerusalem Post)

In recent years, anarchists have attempted to carry out hundreds of bombings in Santiago and other urban areas in Chile.

Islamic extremists have also had a presence in Chile. Prominent U.S.-designated Hezbollah fundraisers have conducted fundraising, money laundering, and smuggling activities for the group in Chile, especially in the free-trade zones of Iquique and Arica in the north of the country. Iranian influence has also reportedly increased in Chile through a growing presence of Iranian-sponsored cultural centers and mosques, many of which have links to Mohsen Rabbani, an Iranian operative and key planner of the 1994 Hezbollah bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. To date, ISIS has not had any known presence in Chile, although in 2015, individuals claiming to be affiliated with ISIS hacked the website of Chile’s Ministry of Defense. A Chilean individual known as Abu Saffiya appeared in an ISIS propaganda video in 2014, though he had been born in Norway to Chilean parents and never actually resided within Chile. (Sources: U.S. Department of the Treasury, U.S. Department of the Treasury, Alberto Nisman, El Mostrador, Reuters, NPR, Los Angeles Daily News, El País)

In recent years, anarchists have attempted to carry out hundreds of bombings in Santiago and other urban areas in Chile. Approximately 80 different anarchist groups have reportedly claimed responsibility for at least 200 explosive devices that have been planted since 2005, though none of the attempted attacks have been lethal except for one bomb that exploded prematurely and killed the anarchist operative who was carrying it in 2009. Nonetheless, authorities have struggled to prosecute those responsible or even to discern much information about the operations of the anarchist groups, some of which are reportedly linked to broader international networks. (Sources: BBC News, Clinic, Vice News)

There have also been attacks carried out in recent years by indigenous Mapuche individuals seeking land restitution. The indigenous Mapuche people have long been marginalized by the Chilean government, and the land that they once inhabited in southern Chile has been sold to farmers and forestry companies. Around 1997, some Mapuche individuals began employing violent tactics, including arson attacks, bombings, and firearm assaults. Though most of their attacks have targeted crops and farming equipment, some have also inflicted casualties, such as a January 2013 arson attack that killed an elderly couple. (Sources: Al Jazeera, La Nación, BBC News, Fox News, Reuters)                        

In a highly controversial move, the Chilean government has applied the country’s Antiterrorism Law to some instances of Mapuche violent crime, including some that did not result in any casualties. Chile’s Antiterrorism Law, which was passed in 1984 under Pinochet’s military regime, has been criticized by human rights groups for lacking due process. Furthermore, its application against the Mapuche has been criticized as an arbitrary invocation aimed at further discrimination. The Chilean government also launched a campaign against Mapuche violence in 2001, though the United Nations has criticized Chile’s police for the use of excessive force against the Mapuche. (Sources: La Nación, CNN Chile, BBC News, El Mostrador, Globe and Mail, Human Rights Watch, BBC News)

Chile has a National Intelligence Agency (Agencia National de Inteligencia, ANI), and the country’s Armed Forces and two police bodies, the Carabineros and Investigations Police (PDI), also contribute to intelligence operations. According to the U.S. Department of State, Chile also has a well-developed financial sector and anti-money launder/counter-terrorist financing (AML/CTF) regime. (Sources: La Tercera, U.S. Department of State)

Chile is a member of the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering in South America (GAFILAT), as well as the Organization of American States Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE). Chile has also participated in other multilateral counterterrorism initiatives, including U.S.-led counterterrorism workshops. (Sources: FATF, U.S. Department of State, United Nations, U.S. Department of State)

A 2014 public opinion poll suggested that 68 percent of Chileans were afraid of anarchist bombings and 70 percent felt that the problem was getting worse. A 2017 public opinion poll suggested that 56 percent of Chileans classified the violent actions of indigenous Mapuches in the southern Araucanía region as terrorism, but 65 percent believed that the solution to the Mapuche conflict should be achieved through political means and not through the application of Chile’s Antiterrorism Law. (Sources: BBC News, La Tercera)

Radicalization and Foreign Fighters

Pinochet Dictatorship, 1973-1990

On September 11, 1973, a military junta led by General Augusto Pinochet seized power from Salvador Allende, Chile’s democratically elected Marxist president, in a violent coup d’état. Allende committed suicide within Chile’s presidential palace after refusing to resign as Pinochet’s troops attacked the building. The coup d’état was covertly backed by the U.S. government as part of Operation Condor, which aimed to suppress left-wing sentiment in South America during the Cold War. (Sources: New York Times, BBC News, History)

Following the coup d’état, Chile underwent a 17-year period of state oppression directed at suspected political opponents during the ensuing right-wing military dictatorship. According to an official report published in 2011, more than 3,000 individuals were killed or went missing at the hands of Pinochet’s regime. An additional 30,000 individuals suffered human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention and torture, and at least 20,000 more were forced into exile. Pinochet finally stepped down from power and allowed Chile to transition back to democracy in 1990 after a national referendum rejected the continuation of his rule. (Sources: History, El País, El País, El Mundo)

In 1978, Pinochet’s regime passed an amnesty law that granted protection from prosecution to those who committed human rights violations during the dictatorship. Although Chilean courts have since found ways to circumvent the legislation and prosecute individuals, and although the Chilean government pledged in 2014 to overturn the law, it nonetheless remains in place as of 2018. (Sources: Amnesty International, Reuters, Biblioteca de Chile)

Guerrilla Movements

A number of guerrilla movements, both radical right- and left-wing, emerged in Chile before and during the Pinochet dictatorship. The Revolutionary Left Movement (Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria, MIR) was a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla movement that emerged in Chile in 1965. The group sought a leftist revolution in Chile like the one that had taken place in Cuba six years earlier. The MIR reduced its activities significantly after the Marxist president Salvador Allende took power in 1970, as it tacitly supported his government. However, after Pinochet seized power in 1973, the group was heavily persecuted, and many of its members were tortured, exiled, or killed. The MIR managed to maintain a small underground resistance network for some years under the leadership of Allende’s nephew and with assistance from militants who had been trained in Nicaragua and Cuba. However, the group’s principal leader, Miguel Enríquez, was killed in 1983, and its activities were ultimately suppressed by the government later in the decade. (Sources: Biblioteca Nacional de Chile, Federation of American Scientists)

Fatherland and Liberty (Patria y Libertad) was a right-wing, pro-fascist paramilitary group that emerged in 1970 in opposition to the Salvador Allende’s socialist government that had just come into power. The group, which supported a coup d’état against Allende’s government, launched a “sabotage” campaign to destroy infrastructure and machinery and generate an atmosphere of chaos so that Chileans would support military intervention. According to the book Chile Under Pinochet, the economic and psychological impact of the campaign was “considerable.” Following Pinochet’s successful coup d’état in 1973, Fatherland and Liberty disbanded, though many of its members were recruited into Pinochet’s regime and took part in the oppression that ensued. (Sources: CNN Chile, Chile Under Pinochet, Federation of American Scientists)

During the dictatorship, other leftist insurgent groups emerged in opposition to the regime in addition to the MIR. The left-wing United Popular Action Movement–Latauro (Movimiento de Acción Popular Unitario–Latauro, MAPU-L) emerged in the early 1980s. The MAPU-L established two affiliated groups, the Lautaro Popular Rebel Forces (Fuerzas Rebeldes Populares Latauro-FRPL), aimed at overthrowing the government, and the Lautaro Youth Movement (Movimiento Juvenil Lautaro, MJL), a special youth wing whose membership mostly consisted of youths and delinquents from impoverished urban areas. The MJL’s violent activities, which included several assassinations of police officers and bombings of Mormon chapels, continued after Chile’s transition to democracy in 1990, and did not subside until the arrest of its leader, Guillermo Ossandón, in 1994. (Sources: Federation of American Scientists, Federation of American Scientists, La Tercera)

The Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front (Frente Patriótico Manuel Rodriguez, FPMR) was a Marxist guerrilla movement founded in 1983 as the armed wing of the Chilean Communist Party, which resisted Pinochet’s regime. In 1986, the FPMR launched a firearm assault on Pinochet’s motorcade in a failed assassination attempt. With links to Cuba, the FPMR became the dominant and best-organized terrorist group in Chile in the late 1980s. In 1987, the group split into two factions, one of which became a political party and the other of which remained armed. The armed faction of FPMR, known as FPMR-Autonomous (FPMR-A), embraced a Maoist ideology and continued to carry out attacks in Chile throughout the 1990s, which targeted civilian and international targets including U.S. businesses, Mormon churches, and fast food restaurants. The group ceased to carry out operations in the late 1990s after government operations diminished its capabilities. (Sources: Federation of American Scientists, Federation of American Scientists, BBC News, El País, U.S. Department of State)

Nazism

According to declassified files released in 2017, several Nazi supporters operated in Chile during the Second World War. Some Chilean individuals of German descent reportedly underwent paramilitary training. Nazi supporters and spies in the country reportedly supplied Germany with information on Allied ship routes and worked on plans to bomb northern Chilean mines and the Panama Canal. Following the defeat of Nazi Germany, several former members of the Third Reich escaped to South American countries, including Chile. Former SS Colonel Walter Rauff was one of the most prominent Nazi figures to settle in Chile, where he lived freely under his own name until his death in 1984. (Sources: Telegraph, Reuters, History)

Neo-Nazi sentiment has resurfaced and even led to violence in Chile in recent years. In January 2017, three men displaying neo-Nazi symbols attacked a gay Jewish activist with a razor in a park in Santiago, injuring him. (Sources: Emol, Jerusalem Post)

Hezbollah and Shiite Extremism

Prominent Hezbollah fundraisers have conducted money laundering and smuggling activities for the group in Chile, especially in the free-trade zones of Iquique and Arica in the north of the country. According to Chilean authorities, Hezbollah operatives began traveling to the country in 1994. In 2004, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated Assad Ahmad Barakat as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist for his role as a “key terrorist financier” for Hezbollah. According to the designation, Barakat held two residential addresses in Iquique, Chile, at the time. One of Barakat’s Iquique-based companies, Barakat Import Export Ltd, was also designated for its involvement in generating support for Hezbollah, though the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio reported that Barakat had closed it down in 2002. In 2006, the U.S. Treasury also designated Barakat’s brother, Hatem Barakat, for his role as a Hezbollah fundraiser. According to the designation, he was a significant shareholder of at least two businesses in Iquique used to generate funds for Hezbollah as of 2003. He made frequent trips to the city, where he collected funds to transfer to Hezbollah in Lebanon and “possibly” managed a group of suspected Hezbollah members there. Prior to 2005, Chilean authorities identified several additional companies “suspected of serving as either front organizations or shell companies for Hezbollah,” according to the Washington Institute. A leaked 2006 cable from the then-U.S. ambassador to Chile stated that Hezbollah-linked individuals were “increasing their presence and activity in Chile” at the time. (Sources: Washington Institute, U.S. Department of the Treasury, U.S. Department of the Treasury, Infobae, El Mercurio, Fox News, Small Wars Journal)

According to Chilean authorities, Hezbollah operatives began traveling to the country in 1994.

Iranian presence in Chile has also increased through a growing number of Iranian-sponsored cultural centers and mosques, many of which reportedly have links to Mohsen Rabbani, an Iranian operative and key planner of the 1994 Hezbollah bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Between 1992 and 1997, Rabbani reportedly made seven trips to Chile, where he established a close relationship with the country’s Shiite community at cultural centers such as the Centro de Cultura Islámica de Las Condes in Santiago and the Organización Chilena Islámica de Cultura in Temuco. These cultural centers as well as several mosques in the country have reportedly continued to be led by individuals with links to Rabbani and the Iranian regime, and have reportedly worked to propagate radical Shiite views as part of former Iranian Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini’s vision to attain a unified, global Islamic state governed by sharia law. (Sources: Nation, Small Wars Journal, El Mostrador, Alberto Nisman, Enlace Judío, National Interest, MEMRI)

ISIS

On February 23, 2015, the website of Chile’s Ministry of Defense was hacked by individuals claiming to be members of ISIS. (Source: Reuters)

In June 2014, ISIS’s al-Hayat media center released a propaganda video entitled “The End of Sykes-Picot” starring a Chilean individual known as Abu Saffiya. Abu Saffiya, whose real name was Bastián Alexis Vásquez, was born in Norway to Chilean parents and never actually resided within Chile. He joined ISIS after living in Spain for many years, and was reportedly killed in January 2016. (Sources: NPR, Los Angeles Daily News, El País)

Anarchist Groups

In recent years, anarchists have attempted to carry out hundreds of bombings in Santiago and other urban areas in Chile.

In recent years, anarchists have attempted to carry out hundreds of bombings in Santiago and other urban areas in Chile. Since 2005, anarchists have claimed responsibility for at least 200 explosive devices that have detonated or been discovered before detonation. The bombs have mainly targeted banks, police stations, army barracks, churches, and government buildings, and while some have inflicted injuries, they have generally not been lethal. In one of the most notorious attacks, a September 2014 bombing at the Escuela Militar metro station in Santiago injured 14 people. The only death linked to an anarchist bombing has been that of the anarchist operative Mauricio Morales, who was killed in 2009 when a bomb that he was planting exploded prematurely. Nonetheless, authorities have struggled to identify and prosecute the perpetrators, or even to discern much information about the anarchist groups responsible, which reportedly may be linked to broader international networks and former Chilean leftist insurgents. Approximately 80 different anarchist groups have claimed responsibility for the bombs, though authorities have been unable to determine if that many groups are indeed active, or if a smaller number of groups simply operate under multiple names. (Sources: BBC News, Clinic, Vice News)

Mapuche Conflict

In recent years, there have also been several attacks carried by indigenous Mapuche individuals seeking land restitution. The indigenous Mapuche people of Chile have been discriminated against and marginalized by the Chilean government since the late 1800s. Most of the land they once inhabited in southern Chile, mainly in the provinces of Araucanía and Bio Bio, has been sold by the government to farmers and forestry companies. Around 1997, some Mapuches began employing violent tactics in campaigns for land restitution, including arson attacks, bombings, and firearm assaults. Most of the attacks have targeted crops, farming equipment, and machinery belonging to white farmers and forestry countries in the region, although some have inflicted casualties, such as a January 2013 arson attack that killed an elderly couple. Mapuche attacks have also targeted churches. In the days preceding Pope Francis’s January 2018 visit to Chile, three Catholic churches in Santiago were firebombed. Authorities found notes at the scene threatening the pope and attributing the bombings to Mapuche individuals. From the beginning of 2014 to August 2017, Mapuches launched a total of 797 attacks in Chile. Some Mapuche attacks have been committed by Mapuche leaders or organized rebel groups, although it is unclear to what extent they are supported by the broader Mapuche population. (Sources: Al Jazeera, La Nación, BBC News, Fox News, Reuters, Human Rights Watch

Since 2001, the Chilean government has frequently characterized the violence carried out by Mapuches as terrorism and applied the country’s controversial Antiterrorism Law to prosecute those responsible. The Antiterrorism Law, which was passed in 1984 during the Pinochet dictatorship, has been criticized for permitting the violation of due process. Furthermore, the United Nations and other human rights groups have criticized the application of the law to Mapuche crimes––many of which target private property and inflict no casualties––as an arbitrary invocation aimed at further discriminating against the Mapuche nation. The United Nations has also criticized Chile’s police for the use of excessive force against the Mapuches. At least three Mapuche protestors have been shot dead since 2003. (Sources: La Nación, CNN Chile, BBC News, El Mostrador, Globe and Mail, Human Rights Watch, BBC News)

Major Extremist and Terrorist Incidents

 

Domestic Counter-Extremism

Chile passed an Antiterrorism Law in May 1984 under the military regime of Augusto Pinochet aimed at suppressing opposition to the regime. The law has since remained it place, though it has been heavily criticized by human rights groups including the United Nations Human Rights Council, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch for permitting the violation of civil liberties and due process, as it allows suspects to be held in isolation uncharged and unidentified witnesses to be used in investigations. The law has been applied several times since 2001 to crimes committed by indigenous Mapuches as part of their campaign for land restitution––many of which targeted private property and inflicted no casualties. Most recently, the law was applied to the prosecution of four Mapuche individuals arrested in June 2016 on charges of arson. The application of the law against the Mapuche has also been criticized as an arbitrary invocation aimed at further discrimination against the indigenous nation. (Sources: Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional de Chile, BBC News, El Mostrador, Globe and Mail, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch, United Nations Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch)

Chile’s government has proposed reforms of the law several times, but none have yet taken effect. Most recently, in March 2018, the government of Sebastián Piñera declared its intention to reform the law. However, the proposed reforms, which would allow the use of phone taps and undercover agents as well as the continued use of unidentified witnesses in investigations, have been criticized as being equally harsh and discriminatory. (Sources: United Nations Human Rights, Amnesty International, Globe and Mail, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch, República de Chile Senado, Universidad de Chile, El Mostrador)

In 2001, the Chilean government launched a campaign against the indigenous Mapuches for their violent campaign to achieve land restitution. Chile’s police force, the Carabineros, have received extensive criticism from the United Nations and human rights groups for their use of excessive force and physical abuse against Mapuche individuals. At least three Mapuche protestors have been shot dead since 2003. (Sources: Human Rights Watch, BBC News)

In recent years, anarchists have attempted to carry out hundreds of bombings in Santiago and other urban areas in Chile.

In 1978, Pinochet’s regime passed an amnesty law that granted protection from prosecution to those who committed human rights violation during the dictatorship. Although Chilean courts have since found ways to circumvent the legislation and prosecute individuals, and although the Chilean government pledged in 2014 to overturn the law, it nonetheless remains in place as of 2018. (Sources: Amnesty International, Reuters, Biblioteca de Chile)

Chile has a National Intelligence Agency (Agencia National de Inteligencia, ANI), which is charged with conducting intelligence analyses and coordinating all intelligence operations in the country. Chile’s Armed Forces and two police bodies, the Carabineros and Investigations Police (PDI) also contribute to intelligence operations in the country. However, the ANI has been criticized for its failure to take action against the recent widespread phenomenon of anarchist bombings. Chilean authorities struggled to identify and prosecute the perpetrators of anarchist bombings, and even to discern much information about the anarchist groups responsible. In 2009 and 2010, Chilean police arrested 14 bombing suspects, but all were absolved due to insufficient evidence presented in court. As of 2014, only one individual, who planted a bomb in November 2011, had been imprisoned for offenses related to anarchist bombings. (Sources: La Tercera, BBC News, El Mundo, Clinic, Vice News)

According to the U.S. Department of State, Chile has a well-developed financial sector and anti-money launder/counter-terrorist financing (AML/CTF) regime, which includes a Financial Analysis Unit. However, Chile’s unregulated free trade zones, which are in Iquique, Arica, and Punta Arenas, are identified as vulnerable areas for illicit financial activity, due in part to geographical limitations that make the areas a challenge to regulate. The free trade zones of Iquique and Arica are near Chile’s porous borders with Peru and Bolivia, where authorities have reportedly struggled to monitor illicit activity. Nonetheless, Chilean authorities successfully identified and investigated Hezbollah-linked companies operating in the region, including two of U.S.-designated Assad Ahmad Barakat’s Iquique-based companies, though Barakat reportedly closed them down after an international warrant was issued for his arrest in 2002. (Source: U.S. Department of State, United Nations, Infobae, Small Wars Journal, Washington Institute, Australian Broadcasting Company, CEMOC, El Mercurio)

International Counter-Extremism

Chile is a member of the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering in South America (GAFILAT), as well as the Organization of American States Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE). Chile has also participated in other multilateral counterterrorism initiatives. For example, in April 2015, representatives from Chile and other Latin American countries met in Colombia for a U.S. Department of Justice Regional Counterterrorism Workshop. In November 2017, Chile hosted a workshop for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) nations to analyze U.N. sanction regimes related to terrorist financing. (Sources: FATF, U.S. Department of State, United Nations, U.S. Department of State)

Public Opinion

According to a Pew Research Center poll, 58 percent of Chileans opposed U.S.-led efforts to fight terrorism in 2007. (Source: Pew Research Center)      

In 2014, a public opinion poll suggested that 68 percent of Chileans were afraid of anarchist bombings and 70 percent felt that the problem was getting worse. (Source: BBC News)                  

As of December 2017, 56 percent of Chileans classified the violent actions of indigenous Mapuches in the southern Araucanía region as terrorism, according to a survey carried out by the Chile-based research foundation Cadem. However, the same survey suggested that 65 percent of Chileans believed that the solution to the Mapuche conflict should be achieved through political means and not through the application of Chile’s Antiterrorism Law. Only 24 percent believed that the Antiterrorism Law should be applied. (Source: La Tercera)