2nd of May 2006
Today, Tuesday May 2nd, marks the 50th day of the hunger strike for the Mapuche political prisoners Patricia Troncoso, Juan Huenulao, Patricio Marileo and Jaime Marileo. they are experiencing considerable weight loss, their basic bodily functions are begining to fail, they are currently falling in and out of consciousness and are periodically unable to speak.
The four political prisoners protest was initiated to bring about the revision of their sentence, by virtue of the questionable integrity of the legal process that brought about this ruling under the anti-terrorist law, which allows charges to be passed against the accused based on the testimonies of unidentified witnesses. Furthermore they aim to bring about the immediate release of all Mapuche political prisoners.
The Chilean anti-terrorist law established during the Pinochet dictatorship, had until yesterday been utilised under the current system of government against Mapuches whose protest is peaceful and in compliance with democratic principles. The application of this legislation has been repeatedly condemned by the U.N Special Rapporteur for Indigenous peoples Rodolfo Stavenhagen; the recommendations made in his criticism of the Chilean government have been further endorsed by numerous international human rights organisations.
On April 29 th the families of those on hunger strike protested peacefully against the failure of the Chilean government to respond to the situation, by occupying the prison in Angol where their family members are detained, for a period of six hours. Subsequently, the Chilean government has responded by promising to abstain from applying the anti-terrorist law against Mapuches in the future. Nevertheless, the hunger strike continues.
A number of demonstrations have taken place across Chile over the past few weeks, in support of the hunger strikers, which have been violently suppressed by the Chilean police resulting in the injury and detention of many more Mapuche. The demonstrations have taken place amidst a national news blackout which occurs as a result of official bias within media corporations; many media corporate members have affiliations with the trans-national forestry companies whose interests are in conflict with those of Mapuche activists who wish to preserve the integrity of the environment and their ancestral land.
The response of the Chilean authorities has been one of silence; we find this reaction unfortunate as many government officials, including the current President Michelle Bachelet, were themselves the subject of oppression under the former Chilean dictatorship. It remains to be seen whether or not the government stays true to its most recent promise in relation to the application of the anti-terrorist law or if it will continue to sanction the use of such repressive laws against the Mapuche people.
On April 28th 2006 Mapuche International Link relayed a letter addressed to the Chilean President expressing their deep concern for the health and wellbeing of the Mapuche hunger strikers. The statement reads, ‘ 'The Chilean judicial system does not allow Mapuches guarantee of a fair trial.” In addition it states that:
"Today in the Chilean democracy there are Mapuche seeking political asylum, fugitives from justice whilst others have renounced their Chilean nationality - and as a consequence today 4 Mapuche leaders are on a hunger strike that has already lasted 47 days.”
Another statement sent by a Mapuche organisation from Argentina reads:
"Please do not let them die; on Friday the 28th of April demonstrate to the Chilean government that we are not indifferent to the injustices being committed and that there are no borders which could prevent solidarity. We convey a 24-hour vigil for the ‘guardians of the land', to maintain alive the flame of hope and dreams everywhere. Their physical resistance becomes weaker with the passing of each day but their spiritual strength and their resolve grows steadily stronger .''
Due to the worsening condition of the four Mapuche political prisoners and their position at the border between life and death , Mapuche International Link urge supporters for the cause of human rights to attend a vigil outside the Chilean Embassy on Wednesday May 3rd at 2.00pm.
The Underground Station nearest to the Embassy is Great Portland Square.
The Address of the Chilean Embassy in London is:
The Chilean Embassy
12, Devonshire Street ,
For further information contact:
Mapuche International Link
Tel: 0117 927 2391