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Some Mapuche prisoners agree to end hunger strike
Rocío Alorda*
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Government agrees to drop “terrorism” charges against protesting prisoners.

“This strike is just one more act in the rebuilding process of the Mapuche people, that is why they need to stay alive,” said Natividad Llanquileo, spokeswoman of the Mapuche political prisoners who had been hunger-striking for nearly three months, upon announcing an agreement to end the measure.

Twenty-four of the 38 prisoners ended their strike after the government agreed to drop terrorism charges against the prisoners and review the Anti-Terrorism Law, a Pinochet-era legislation that was applied to them in the first place.

The prisoners, jailed in the southern cities of Concepcion, Lebu and Valdivia for alleged acts of terrorism, began their strike on July 12, and sparked an international outcry from human rights groups, as the application of the [Anti-Terrorism] law hampered the ability to build a defense.

The agreement said that the alleged crimes – as well as those some had been convicted of, including arson – would no longer be considered acts of terrorism. The Mapuches have long said that they were simply defending their ancestral homeland.

The government called for a legal reform to ensure that civilians are only tried in civilian, not military, courts.

The agreement, which was brokered by Concepcion Archbishop, Mons. Ricardo Ezzati, Adolfo Montiel, the Mapuches´ lawyer, spokeswoman Llanquileo, and Pamela Pezoa, partner of Héctor Llaitul, a jailed Mapuche prisoner, and Claudio Alvarado, a top presidential palace official, called for legal reform in Congress.

Strike continues
Despite the agreement, 14 Mapuche prisoners have continued their strike.

In a statement released Oct. 3, the protesters in the Angol prison said that the proposed government reforms “continue to attack our fundamental rights, among them, due process, the right to privacy and the right to a defense.”

Regarding the Anti-Terrorist Law, the protesters said that the government must guarantee that it will not be applied to the Mapuche social protest, a recommendation of James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples.

“The withdrawal of these cases by the Executive Branch does not change anything in the current legal situation of the protesters,” said a joint statement from the prisoners in the Angol prison.

Mapuches there have called for continued social protest, and to continue their hunger strike until the state fulfills their demands.

“We are calling on organizations and Mapuche communities as well as international organizations to continue supporting our hunger strike,” said the statement.

Protesters have also called for the demilitarization of their lands.

Anti-Terrorism law
The law, passed in 1984, curbs fundamental rights, some warn.

“Under the common law, one could be tried and be free – even though you cannot leave the country – but under the Anti-Terrorism Law, you can receive long prison sentences just for suspicion of terrorism,” said Domingo Marileo, president of the Mapuche Leftist Assembly. “So without being tried, a person could be jailed just for being processed, and there are young people to whom this law has been applied who risk to serve sentences of 110 years.”

The law preserves the country´s oligarchy and powerful classes, Marileo said, because the law protects “large economic interests,” including those run by transnational companies.

“In the south, since the operations of large companies have been threatened, they started to apply the Anti-Terrorism Law to the Mapuches,” he added.

Until the law is revoked, some Mapuches say they will continue their protest.

“The support was good and the best thing was that people are taking consciousness, that people now understand; there is more political clarity and the conflict is better understood,” said Alejandra, a Mapuche community member who was with the strikers in Concepcion and asked that her last name not be used.

Each Wednesday, in Santiago, Concepcion and Temuco, large marches have been held to support the Mapuche cause.
“The marches ... are a tool to make the courage and commitment [of the Mapuche] visible,” said Alejandra.

The Mapuches have called for more dialogue for the other community members to end their strike as well.
—Latinamerica Press.


Mapuche community members show their solidarity with political prisoners in weekly protests. (Photo: Rocío Alorda)
Latinamerica Press / Noticias Aliadas
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