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CHILE
Repression against the “internal enemy”
Arnaldo Pérez Guerra
3/25/2015
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The strategy for social control to protect the neoliberal model is to criminalize the Mapuche people and social movements.

The phenomenon grows with the invisibility and repression of protests opposing the extractivism and who advocate for political, cultural and territorial rights. Governments and transnationals have renewed the concept of “internal enemy,” and are prosecuting leaders of the social movements.

“Those are today the people excluded from the economic model and all who raise their voice against the injustices of the free market economy. The Mapuche are identified with terrorism. The dispute about property with timber companies is perceived as a brake on progress, a threat to the state of law that weakens the national unity,” stated the attorney Eduardo Mella, in the magazine Reflexión No. 36, published by the Center for Mental Health and Human Rights.

Chile is a dependent economy, an exporter of natural resources, while the state is limited to protect the interests of large corporations and transnationals.

 Environmental, regional and student mobilizations are accompanied by a constant presence of repression. Their leaders are legally prosecuted.

Rodrigo Mundaca, an agronomist who has denounced the theft of water in Cabildo, Petorca, and La Ligua in the Valparaíso region, by businessmen and politicians, including the Christian Democrat former Minister Edmundo Pérez Yoma, was sentenced to 541 days in prison in April 2014 for “damages and calumnies” and faces additional judicial action against him in la Ligua, Quillota and Concepción.

Territories in conflict are militarized, as is the case of the Mapuche communities in Bío Bío, Los Lagos and la Araucanía and, recently, the valley of Chopa, in Caimanes, in the northern region of Coquimbo. The community has no water and is completely polluted by rubbish and waste from the Los Pelambres mine owned by the Luksic Group. Road blocks, hunger strikes and barricades have been the visible means of highlighting their demands.

For more than three months, dating from Nov. 2014, Caimanes put a road camp at the El Mauro reservoir — located 12 kilometers from Caimanes, where the mining company has deposited millions of tons of waste — after the company failed to abide by a Supreme Court decision obligating it to restore the natural riverbed of the El Pupio River.

Last December, the spokesperson for the community, Cristián Flores, was arrested and intimidated by the police. Nancy Reyes, his wife, says: “His arrest was a form of harassment and intimidation. It was staged; they created a crime in order to arrest him.”

Last March 4, eight community members were wounded after an act of violent repression with helicopters, dozens of vehicles and blockades, against hundreds of protesters in Caimanes. One of them lost an eye due to buckshot used by the police.

Mapuche under fire
During the most recent raid on Ercilla, in la Araucanía, this past Feb. 26, Mapuche children were mistreated in the Coñomil Epuleo community that is claiming its ancestral lands. Members of the Investigations Police squad arrested the werken — the community’s traditional authority and messenger — Jorge Quiduleo and threatened and interrogated two Mapuche children who are four and eight years old.

“It was very traumatic, the police shouted at them to get out of their beds and get down on the floor. Under the pressure and violence, the children began crying out,” said Rosa Quiduleo, the two children’s grandmother.

Days before, the Supreme Court had ratified a decision in favor of three children of this community, after the National Institute of Human Rights solicited a precautionary measure. The minors had been arrested after a raid and spent several days imprisoned and were brought to the courtroom with their hands and feet manacled.

Not one mass media outlet broadcast that in the middle of this past February six Mapuche political prisoners denounced torture in the prison at Angol, while an ex-priest Luis García Huidobro — defender of the Mapuche people and spokesman for the political prisoner, Emilio Berkhoff — was condemned to jail in an attempt to silence him.

Incarcerated Mapuches or those accused and being processed by the judicial system for their defense of political, cultural or territorial rights are recognized as political prisoners by human rights organizations, including the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights condemned Chile last year for human rights violations against eight members of the Mapuche community in the case of “Norín Catrimán and others against the State.” This ruling established a precedent that is an important acknowledgment of the phenomenon of criminalization.

According to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the sentences condemning the victims — including the lonkos (the chief leaders) Segundo Aniceto Norín Catrimán and Pasqual Huentequeo Pichún Paillalao and the werken Víctor Manuel Ancalaf Llaupe — for alleged crimes of terrorism, emitted in 2002 and 2003 under the Antiterrorist Law, which violates the principle of legality and the right to the presumption of innocence.

“The cases of criminalization and imprisonment for demanding territorial rights are increasing. Today there is an onslaught of judicial violence against the machis (spiritual/health authorities of the Mapuche people). Machis have been arrested and convicted: Millaray Huichalaf, Tito Cañulef, Francisca Linconao and Celestino Córdoba. Chile is applying the Antiterrorist Law promulgated by [the dictator Augusto] Pinochet, used today with the objective of repressing Mapuche demands,” comments the social scientist, Rodrigo Guerra, in statements to Noticias Aliadas.

In spite of the recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 2014 against the application of the Antiterrorist Law, the administration of President Michelle Bachelet has continued applying it and its repeal is not mentioned, only its improvement.

“Between 2008 and February 2010 the government of Bachelet invoked the Antiterrorist Law in seven instances, with a total of 54 arrests of Mapuche members attributing them terrorist crimes,” pointed out the political prisoner, Héctor Llaitul. In 2014, the Mapuche organization, Meli Wixan Mapu, acknowledged the existence of “20 Mapuche political prisoners.”

Repress and infiltrate
Diverse analysts agree that this political and criminal strategy is spreading dangerously “in a Chile that is awakening and whose streets are overflowing with protests against social injustice and the oppression of the market,” in the words of Paulina Acevedo. She further says, “Students, people in debt for housing, workers, indigenous, environmentalists are only some of the sectors that are in the target.”

An emblematic case is that of the student, Víctor Montoya, who spent 16 months in preventative incarceration, accused under the anti-terrorist law of supposedly placing a bomb in a police post in Feb. 2013. The prosecutor presented testimony from “protected’ witnesses and centered his case on the student of being a “vegan.” Montoya was absolved of the charges in two judgments last year. “It is the Antiterrorist Law that causes all this, you are considered guilty until you prove the contrary,” said Montoya.

 Mireille Fanon, of the Frantz Fanon Foundation, commented about the Montoya case after her visit in 2014 as a human rights observer that the student “spent 16 months in prison because of false evidence under the pretext that the Chilean state need to demonstrate the existence of a terrorist threat. The State knowingly aids and abets the fabrication and use of illegitimate procedures always and when it attempts to reinforce its need to maintain control over the population.”

For Guerra, “there is a growing escalation and legitimation of the powers of [government] security agencies with the objective of repression and infiltration of social movements. The Antiterrorist Law — illegitimate and aberrant from a juridical standpoint — continues to be applied against social activists and principally against the authorities and members of the Mapuche communities, former political prisoners, young people accused of anarchism, as well as the okupas [who use vacant dwellings] and vegans who supposedly plant explosives. The majority of the trials have ended acquitting the accused after months or years of unjust imprisonment.”
—Latinamerica Press.


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Police prepare to repress social mobilization. (Photo: Arnaldo Pérez)
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