Chile: Mapuche end hunger strike

After 63 days on hunger strike, four jailed Mapuche rights activists agreed to temporarily suspend their protest on May 14 after reaching an agreement with Chilean legislators. In exchange for an end to the fast, the government promised to give urgent attention to a proposed law allowing supervised release, introduced by Socialist Party (PS) senator Alejandro Navarro. Navarro and fellow PS senator Jaime Naranjo helped broker the agreement, with mediation from Temuco bishop Manuel Camilo Vial and from lonko (Mapuche community leader) Jose Cariqueo.

Mapuche activists Juan Patricio Marileo Saravia, Florencio Jaime Marileo Saravia, Juan Carlos Huenulao Lienmil and non-Mapuche supporter Patricia Troncoso Robles began their hunger strike on March 13; they are serving 10-year prison sentences for allegedly setting a fire in December 2001 that destroyed property belonging to the Forestal Mininco company.(La Nacion, Chile, May 14) The four hunger strikers were transferred against their will on April 29 from the Angol prison to the jail in Temuco; both cities are in Region IX (Araucania). (Minga Informativa de Movimientos Sociales, May 2; Communique from Agrupacion de Familiares y Amigos de los Presos Politicos Mapuche May 2 via Resumen Latinoamericano)

The suspension of the hunger strike came after weeks of solidarity actions with the Mapuche prisoners. On April 26, six university students were arrested at a solidarity demonstration in Temuco. On April 28, an international day of action for the Mapuche prisoners, agents from the Carabineros Special Forces attacked marchers in Santiago; 16 activists were arrested, including Moira Millan of the Campesino Mapuche Front of Argentina. (Adital, May 2) Another group of protesters tried to occupy the Metropolitan Cathedral in Santiago on April 29 but were stopped by police, who arrested at least 10 of them. And between 20 and 40 people, including family members of Mapuche prisoners, began occupying the Angol prison on April 29. (Resumen Latinoamericano, May 2; Terra Chile, April 29 from EFE) Some 300 people marched through Santiago on May 13; again they were attacked by Carabineros Special Forces, who used water cannons against them and arrested at least eight protesters. (Terra Chile, May 13 from UPI)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 14

See our last post on the Mapuche struggle.