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Violence in Easter Island clan protests

VALPARAISO, Chile, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Chilean police say they have evicted protesting Rapa Nui indigenous groups from Government Plaza in the center of Hanga Roa on Easter Island.

The protests began after an eviction order from Mayor Raul Celis of Valparaiso, Chile, which has jurisdiction over Easter Island despite being more than 2,000 miles away, forcing Rapa Nui clans who claim ancestral ownership over the land from 16 sites on the island, the Santiago Times reported.

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"Unfortunately, President Sebastian Pinera, the Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter and Valparaiso Mayor Raul Celis have chosen the foolish path of violence against our people," Hito Clan spokesperson Marisol Hito said.

Hugo Gutierrez, president of the Human Rights Commission of Chile's Chamber of Deputies, denounced the actions of the police in the evictions and criticized the government for not initiating dialogue with the islanders.

"I talked to islanders, and they told me about the unprecedented violence used by police who are evicting islanders using their legitimate right to recover what they believe belongs to them, which is the Island of Rapa Nui," Gutierrez said.

International human-rights groups have condemned the government's use of force in the evictions and have asked Pinera to resolve the conflict peacefully, but the court-ordered evictions are ongoing, the Times reported.

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