Chile: Most Mapuche Prisoners End Hunger Strike

On October 2, following intense negotiations with the Chilean government, 25 Mapuche prisoners being held in jails in the cities of Concepción, Angol, Temuco and Valdivia, ended a hunger strike that lasted 82 days. Nonetheless, 14 Mapuche prisoners held and hospitalized in Angol, Victoria, Cholchol and Temuco have not yet ended the strike [es].

"No to Military Justice." Photo by Flickr user Periódico El Ciudadano, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

As previously reported by Global Voices, the 38 Mapuche demanded an end to Chile’s Anti-terror Law, a Pinochet-era decree that allowed “for the trials of civilians by military courts, as well as the presentation of ‘protected’ witnesses whose testimonies are heard and recorded anonymously.”

Radio Tierra (Earth Radio) [es], a citizen radio station, reported that [es]:

El Ejecutivo desistirá de todas las causas bajo ley antiterrorista que están en los tribunales del país.

The Executive [branch] will give up all lawsuits under the anti-terror law in courts across the country.

Citizen newspaper El Observatodo [es] added that [es]:

Entre los acuerdos comprometidos, el ejecutivo desiste de los encausamiento por delitos considerados como actos terroristas, ya que no tiene convicción de que estos califiquen bajo esa denominación. Además, el gobierno continuará impulsando las medidas para modificar la legislación, con el fin de que los civiles no sean encausados bajo la justicia militar.

Among the agreements reached, the executive [branch] gives up lawsuits for crimes considered as terrorist acts because it is not convinced these qualify under this category. Moreover, the government will continue to promote measures to modify the law so that civilians are not prosecuted by the military justice [system].

The negotiations were led by the Archbishop of Concepción, Ricardo Ezzati [es]. The full text of the agreement between the government and the Mapuche prisoners can be read here [es].

Twitter Reactions

On Twitter, the hashtag #mapuche has been used throughout the duration of the hunger strike to share news and track developments. After the announcement that most Mapuche prisoners were ending the hunger strike, a lot of users, like Bligoo (@bligoo), expressed a sense of joy. Felipe Salazar Tobar (@fhsalazar) was happy, but showed some caution [es]:

Me alegro por el fin de la huelga de hambre de los comuneros, pero con ello no se termina el conflicto #mapuche.

I’m happy for the end of the hunger strike of the “comuneros,” but that doesn’t end the #mapuche conflict. [In Spanish, the word “comuneros” means “community members.” In Chile, the word “comuneros” is widely used to refer to members of Mapuche communities specifically. Hence, people refer to the prisoners on hunger strike also as the “comuneros” on hunger strike.]

Paz Ramírez García (@pazrg) said [es]:

No se pude hablar de FIN de huelga hasta que TODOS los comuneros depongan, de eso se trata todo esto, de igualdad.

We can’t speak of the END of the strike until ALL “comuneros” end it. That’s what this is all about, it’s about equality.

Health and Political Complications

The blog País Mapuche [es] has reported extensively throughout the strike. It recently informed about the deteriorating health of Felipe Huenchullán, one of the hunger strikers.

Según los datos entregado por los medico del hospital de victoria, el peñi Felipe Huenchullan anoche sufrio un preinfarto y se encuentra con una grave neumonia, con mucha fiebre, los familiares del peñi y su comunidad se encuentran muy preucupada por lo que puede suceder.

According to information given by doctors in the Hospital of Victoria, last night, our brother Felipe Huenchullán suffered from an angina and has a serious pneumonia with a lot of fever. Relatives and his community are very worried about what could happen.

País Mapuche [es] also reported on statements made by Sabás Chaguán, Chile’s Attorney General, who said:

“del punto de vista procesal penal estamos haciendo nuestra labor, nuestro trabajo, y sería notable abandono de deberes si no aplicamos la ley Antiterrorista. Ahora, si se modifica la ley, aplicamos la ley modificada”.

“from the penal process’ point of view, we are doing our job, our tasks, and it would constitute a notable abandonment of our duties if we don’t apply the Anti-terror Law. Now, if the law is modified, we apply the modified law.”

Climate of General Mistrust

Recent unconfirmed accusations have fueled mistrust. The blog of the Autonomous Community of Temucuicui [es] made a serious accusation [es] against Chile’s Minister of Health, Jaime Mañalich (@jmanalich), that spread quickly through Twitter:

El ministro de salud, Jaime Mañalich concurrió esta tarde a las dependencias del hospital de victoria, donde se encuentran internados 6 de los presos polìticos Mapuche de la cárcel de Angol […] Al ver que los comuneros no desistían en dejar la movilizaciòn […] les amenazó señalando quedaría la orden para que retornacen a la cárcel de Angol y que ahí los dejaría morir.”

The Minster of Health, Jaime Mañalich, went this afternoon to the hospital of Victoria facilities, where 6 of the Mapuche political prisoners from the Angol jail are hospitalized […] Seeing that the “comuneros” will not abandon the demonstration […] he threatened them saying that “he will order their return to the Angol jail and the he’d let them die there”

Global Voices contributor Felipe Cordero (@felipe_cordero) used Twitter to contact [es] the Minister of Health and inquire about this accusation:

felipe_cordero: @jmanalich Ministro, Es cierto lo de la amenaza a huelguistas? Le agradecería si me lo aclara, gracias (ver tweet)

felipe_cordero: @jmanalich Minister, Are the threats to the strikers true? I would be grateful if you clarify that, thanks (view Tweet)

jmanalich: @felipe_cordero Ni siquiera me imagino a que se refiere. (ver tweet)

jmanalich: @felipe_cordero I can’t even imagine what you are referring to. (view Tweet)

@jmanalich Ministro, su respuesta me confunde un poco La acusación hecha aquí: ¿es cierto o no?Es bueno saber su versión. (ver tweet)

@jmanalich Minister, your answer confuses me a little bit. The accusation made here: Is it true or not? it's good to know your version (view tweet)

jmanalich: @felipe_cordero Es falsa. Mi solicitud es que se hospitalicen los tres últimos comuneros que quedan en Angol. (ver tweet)

jmanalich: @felipe_cordero It’s false. My request is that the last three comuneros remaining in Angol be hospitalized. (view Tweet)

After a meeting between a spokesperson for the Angol prisoners and Supreme Court President Milton Juica [es], the spokesman said [es]: “today it's the government's turn to look for an alternative exit to this problem, such as advancing towards a concrete solution, a solution that effectively reflects this government has a different [kind of] concern than other governments with regard to the demands for land that exist, particularly in the communities where the political prisoners come from.” The Minister of Interior replied that [es] “the end of the hunger strike is not the end of a problem, it's the beginning of a new stage.”

It is expected that the government will continue to pressure the strikers, but that it will not intervene in land disputes at the moment, possibly to allow time to design a nation-wide policy to deal with indigenous land disputes. It is also expected that the Catholic Church will continue to mediate to solve the stalemate.

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