Chile: Indigenous hunger strikers demand justice

The ongoing hunger strike is the latest step in the campaign by the Mapuche people to demand the repeal of anti- terrorism laws

Indigenous Mapuche political prisoners in Chile continue to stand firm, more than two months into a hunger strike against the repression against their people and the militarisation of their lands.

The hunger strike, which began on July 12 and has been joined by four opposition parliamentary deputies and a dozen activists from student and social organisations, is the latest step in the campaign by the Mapuche people to demand the repeal of anti-terrorism laws.

The laws being used to silence the Mapuche people’s struggle date back to the brutal Pinochet dictatorship. Pinochet led a military coup that overthrew elected left-wing president Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973.

Already, two of the hunger strikers are in a serious state and have received medical treatment. Doctors have said the strikers are entering a “critical stage” as the effects of the hunger strike begin to impact on muscle structure and internal organs.

International support for the hunger strikers is growing. A number of members of the European parliament have called on the Chilean government to open negotiations with the Mapuche people.

The Sydney Latin American Social Forum sent the following letter on September 9 to Chilean President Sebastian Pinera to protest the continued repression of the Mapuche people and in support of the demands of the hunger strikers.

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We write to express our grave concern for the lives of the 32 Mapuche political prisoners on hunger strike, as well as the silence and indifference of the government and most of the media to their demands to end the human rights violations suffered by their people.

Since July 12, 32 Mapuche political prisoners in jails in Concepcion, Lebu, Angol, Temuco and Valdivia have been on a hunger strike.

We believe a solution to this serious problem can no longer be put off.’

To resolve this conflict, it will require serious political will, rather than false accusations, racism, harassment and militarisation of the land of the Mapuche. Militarisation has resulted in crimes that have gone unpunished, such as police shooting dead Alex Lemun, Matias Catrileo and Jaime Mendoza Collío.

We can also add the murder of Johnny Cariqueo, who died after being tortured.

The demands of the hunger strikers, and those of the Mapuche people, are just demands. They oppose the use of anti-terrorism law against them, against being tried by military courts, and against the repression they face in their community and homes.

Similarly, it is not acceptable that children are facing repression, even while at school.

Such polices have been rejected by the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on indigenous peoples, Amnesty International and the Chilean-based Ethical Commission against Torture.

W request, Mr. President, that the government and the rest of the state take urgent action to find a solution based on respect for the culture and legitimate demands of the Mapuche people.

We express our solidarity with the demands of the Mapuche prisoners on hunger strike.

We strongly express our concern for the health of the imprisoned Mapuches and their severe physical deterioration, which results from this type of protest.

We also express our concerns for the families of all the Mapuche political prisoners, particularly the children who for a long time have suffered abuse and violence at the hands of the police, as well as the poverty and marginalisation in which they have been forced to live.

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