Thursday, June 2, 2011

Chile: Mapuche hunger strike enters eightieth day

For several decades, Chile’s government and indigenous Mapuche activists haven’t seen eye-to-eye with each other. One of the more pressing concerns is the application of a dictatorship-era law that limits the legal rights of the accused including permitting the state to hold people for up to two years without charges. (Mapuche leaders claimed that the law is used to specifically target members of their community).

Several Mapuche activists who have been imprisoned under the aforementioned law have gone on hunger strikes and have gotten some concessions from the government. On Thursday a hunger strike by four incarcerated activists protest seeking a retrial reached an eightieth day. The protesters are all very ill and two of them, Héctor Llaitul and Jonathan Huillical, were transferred to a local hospital due to the fragile medical state. (One of them allegedly lost as much as 90 pounds).

The Archbishop of Concepción, Fernando Chomalí, visited the strikers this week and he subsequently told the press that the Church “is not indifferent” to their situation. The Mapuche case “is a human problem, not a judicial one” said Chomali who may serve as an intermediary much like his predecessor, Ricardo Ezzati.

Protests in solidarity with the strikers were held in recent days in several European countries. One group of French demonstrators on Wednesday chained themselves for several hours to the Chilean embassy in Paris.

In response to the strikers, government spokeswoman Ena von Baer said that the Pinera administration “100% fulfilled the promises made at the previous negotiation table” last year. Despite government claims that the four strikers were not tried under the controversial anti-terrorism law penal public defender Paula Vial rejected such an assertion.

As discussed in the below video, the Chilean Supreme Court is expected to decide on Friday if the strikers are owed a retrial:

Video Source – teleSUR via YouTube
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, LAHT, La Segunda, La Nacion, La Tercera,, UNPO

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