by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Anti-Gypsyism now also in South America. The evil canker is spreading.

A mob of more than 100 people attacked a Gypsy encampment near southern Chile's Puerto Montt (Region X) last Friday. The attackers reportedly sought to avenge the death of a local resident, whom they wrongly believed was killed by a Gypsy.

The crowd of locals used fire and stones as weapons against what authorities called a peaceful Gypsy community that had been there since November 2008.

The crowd had been acting in the belief that a Gypsy was responsible for the recent hit-and run accident which killed a local man, Juan Alvarado, 29, but the police maintain there is no Gypsy connection to the accident.

Four cars were set on fire, and tents and other property were destroyed as the Gypsies fled to safety. During the assault, the mob tried to stop the Gypsies from escaping. The police tried to help the Gypsies, but the crowd turned on them.

When a local fire-fighting unit arrived at the site to put out the flames, it, too, was attacked by locals throwing stones.

This is very much akin to what has happened in both Italy and Hungary with the one difference; the police is not on the side of the perpetrators but on the side of the Rom. This makes a very welcome change.

District Attorney Sergio Coronado emphasized there was no connection between the gypsies and the car-death case. “The line of investigation does not lead to the Gypsies. They were ruled out at the very start. The investigation is leading in another direction, and the family of the victim is aware of this,” he said. Local officials said the Gypsy community was a victim of “prejudices” on the part of the locals who attacked them.

Francisco Estevez, the director of the Region X Division of Social Organizations, said he hoped to meet with Regional Governor Sergio Galilea in the next few days to discuss the matter. Estevez said the anti-discrimination initiative currently under discussion in a Senate committee will offer victims of discrimination special recourse in law and will provide special sanctions for those convicted of discrimination crimes.

The Gypsies did not formally complain to the police after the attack, but did abandon their site.

Gypsy camp spokesperson Juan Carlos Farias said his group will travel to Santiago to meet with the “King of the Gypsies” in order to discuss the matter and consider what legal action they might pursue.

Locals have asked that the Gypsies never be allowed back into Puerto Montt and one Octavio Alvarado, head of a local neighborhood association, asked for concrete measures to be taken against the Gypsies returning. “This place has been converted into a dump, full of waste and rats. The owner of the land should come and take a look,” he said.

Francisco Nicolich, a Gypsy who fled the site on Friday said, “Gypsies have never killed anyone. Every time that something happens, Gypsies are blamed.”

Sources: la Tercera, El Llanquihue and others

© 2009