Chile: Campaign in Support of Mapuche Political Prisoners Gains Momentum

August 12, 2010

A campaign declaring solidarity with 31 detained Mapuche hunger strikers has attracted substantial local and international attention to the Mapuche struggle.

Below is a press release issued by Mapuche International Link:

In a declaration of solidarity with 31 detained Mapuche hunger strikers whose current medical status is of grave concern, Mapuche International Link’s (MIL) General Secretary, Reynaldo Mariqueo, will lead members of a delegation including Ms Jimena Castro and Mr. Roberto Navarrante – both of whom are members of the Association of Ex Chilean Political Prisoners -to formally declare their opposition to the Chilean government’s continued application of Pinochet-era anti-terrorism legislation against Mapuche democratic protest. The event, which will involve the presentation of a letter to the Chilean Minister Counsellor at the Chilean embassy tomorrow and is timed to commemorate the ‘International Day of Solidarity with the Mapuche Political Prisoners on Hunger Strike’ on 12 August 2010.

The meeting, which begins at 15:00pm today, 12 August 2010, will discuss the deteriorating health of the political prisoners, some of whom have been on hunger strike since July 12th, 2010. Originally, the protest broke out in response to the refusal of the Chilean authorities to recognise both the human rights of the detainees and the essentially political nature of their indictment and detention. Although news coverage of the action has been severely curtailed by a government ‘blackout’, the hunger strike has already inspired Mapuche communities in cities across Chile to take to the streets to declare their support.

In an attempt to maintain the protest’s impetus, MIL, in concert with an alliance of sympathetic groups, has launched a campaign which expresses support for the sacrifices which have been made, and which continue to be made, by the political prisoners. Tomorrow’s declaration of support is part of a broader Campaign for the Defence of Human Rights of Mapuche Political Prisoners on Hunger Strike.

This campaign has already attracted substantial attention in the form of a petition which supports a letter, addressed to Sebastián Piñera, the current President of the Republic of Chile, which criticises the apparatus of repression in which the anti-terrorism law is only one part (1). In a sign of the growing international awareness of this issue, it has already attained signatures from as far afield as Sweden, Mexico and Turkey.

This growing interest has undoubtedly been encouraged by the open criticism of the Chilean authorities by international bodies. The widespread and inappropriate use of anti-terrorist law 18.314 has therefore been highlighted by both the Ethical Committee against Torture and the UN Human Rights Council.

In this sense, the neat demarcation which could be drawn between the Pinochet regime and its civilian successors is misleading, precisely because, under this law – which was first enacted by the dictatorship – defendants are subject to dual trial by military tribunals and civilian courts – for this reason, amongst others, the distinction between ‘military’ and ‘civilian’ rule is nowhere as clear as it should be, a conclusion which is further reinforced by the aforementioned petition’s demand that the ‘use of militarised violence against communities, young people and the elderly must stop’.

The Mapuche struggle – of which the prisoners’ strike is only the most recent manifestation – is the latest chapter in a story which began with the campaign of genocide which was launched against the indigenous population in 1863-1883 (in the form of the Araucanian Pacification). The Mapuche have since struggled against the results of a ‘settlement’ which was imposed upon them by force.

We call upon both the Chilean government and the international community to instead work towards a settlement founded upon respect for basic and fundamental rights, whether human, political or cultural. For this reason we call upon the Chilean government to:

Repeal the anti-terrorism law End the institutionalised violence Ensure guarantees of due process for Mapuche political prisoners who are currently incarcerated. Repeal the method of ‘double simultaneous trial’ before a military tribunal and civilian court Implement political and territorial rights of autonomy and self-determination.

The Mapuche are an indigenous nation which straddles Southern/Central Chile and Argentina. Their population is estimated at two million. They are the only indigenous nation from South America whose sovereignty and autonomy were formally recognised during the Spanish conquest of the continent. To this day, the Mapuche continue to struggle against the repression of their legitimate cultural and territorial rights by the Argentinean and Chilean authorities.

For further information please contact Mapuche International Link on 01179 279391, mobile: 07813 979712.

(1) http://www.mapuche-nation.org/english/html/news/pr-89.htm

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