Chile: Mapuche prisoners strike
Mapuche rights activists Juan Patricio Marileo Saravia, Florencio Jaime Marileo Saravia, Juan Carlos Huenulao Lienmil and Patricia Troncoso Robles (known as "La Chepa") have been on hunger strike since March 13 in prison in Angol, Chile's Region IX, demanding a review of their cases. The strikers were accused of setting a fire in December 2001 that burned 100 hectares of pine plantations belonging to the Forestal Mininco S.A. company on the Poluco Pidenco estate in Ercilla. The court characterized the arson as a terrorist act and invoked a special anti-terrorism law; the four activists were sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay the company restitution of 423 million pesos ($822,717). (Adital, Brazil, April 13; Mapuche International Link, April 20)
On April 18, Socialist Party senator Alejandro Navarro expressed support for the hunger strikers, calling their protest "just." Navarro urged the government of President Michelle Bachelet, also of the Socialist Party, to support an amnesty law to cover the hunger strikers and five other Mapuche activists sentenced under the anti-terrorism law. "The sentences must be annulled, because they violate international human rights law," he said.
In a November 2004 report, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples, recommended that Chile pardon Mapuche prisoners sentenced under the anti-terrorism law. (presospoliticosmapuche.org, April 18) The International Human Rights Federation (FIDH) also recently issued a report questioning the use of the anti-terrorism law in the Mapuche cases.
Last year the Mapuche activists at Angol prison went on hunger strike from March 7 to April 1. They ended that strike after accepting promises that their incarceration would be reviewed--something that never happened, according to Jose Araya of the Corporation for Promotion and Defense of the Rights of the People (CODEPU). (Adital, April 13)
This past April 3, after a nine-day trial, the Angol criminal court freed Mapuche lonkos (community leaders) Jose Cariqueo Saravia and Juan Antonio Colihuinca Ancaluan after accquitting them of charges in the Poluco Pidenco "terrorist fire" case. The two had been convicted in three previous trials on the case and sentenced to 10 years in prison and a 425 million peso fine. Cariqueo and Colihuinca were also on hunger strike since March 13, but ended their fast when they were freed. (FIDH, April 12; Adital, April 7)
According to the organization Meli Wixan Mapu (Four Points of Land) the four remaining hunger strikers "are showing serious physical deterioration." (Television Nacional de Chile "24 Horas," April 21) Solidarity demonstrations have been called for April 26. (Prensa Rodriguista del Sur, April 20 via Colombia Indymedia)
On April 21, agents of the militarized Carabineros police used violence to break up a peaceful demonstration in Valparaiso in support of the Mapuche prisoners. About 10 people were arrested. (pres