Chile: Mapuche hunger striker reported near death

On Jan. 27 a group of academics, musicians and human rights activists said they were planning an emergency visit the next day to two indigenous Chilean prisoners to try to find a political solution that could end a hunger strike the prisoners started on Nov. 14. The prisoners–Héctor Llaitul Carillanca, the leader of the militant Mapuche organization Arauco Malleco Coordinating Committee (CAM), and CAM activist Ramón Llanquileo Pilquimán–were convicted in 2011 of arson and of attacking a prosecutor; this is their third hunger strike to demand a reduction of their sentences. They are now being held in a prison in Concepción, in the central Biobío region.

Ana Miranda, a representative of the Spanish autonomous region of Galicia in the European Parliament, visited Héctor Llaitul on Jan. 26. The prisoner’s health was deteriorating after 74 days on hunger strike, according to the legislator, who was in Chile for two joint European and Latin American summits. “It was painful to see him,” she said. “The people who visited him with me, who are friends of his, told me that to them he seemed much worse in terms of his weight, and basically that this could give him a heart attack at any moment—that is, Mr. Héctor Llaitul could die at any moment.” Miranda said it was time for Chile to recognize the rights of different ethnic groups and to create autonomous regions within the country.

The group planning to visit the prisoners includes the Uruguayan writer Raúl Zibechi, University of Chile history professor Sergio Grez, Chilean human rights activist Viviana Díaz Caro, Federation of Catholic University Students (FEUC) president Diego Vela, and singer and poet Manuel García. (Radio Bío Bío, Chile, Jan. 26; La Nación, Chile, Jan. 26; Radio Universidad de Chile, Jan. 27)

Some 150 legislators from Europe and the Americas were in Santiago to attend the sixth meeting of the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly (EuroLat), held Jan. 24-25, and the first summit of the European Union (EU) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), held Jan. 26-27. A total of 30 of the legislators signed a declaration expressing their “concern about the situation experienced by the Mapuche people in the Republic of Chile” and about what they called “legal state terrorism.”

“We are alarmed by the harsh militarization that is taking place in the Mapuche territories, along with the emergency laws such as the state security law and the antiterrorist law that date back to the era of the dictatorship,” the legislators said, referring to the 1973-1990 military government of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. “We call for respect for the rights and guarantees of the Mapuche people, for recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples consecrated in International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 169, and for an urgent response to the demands of the political prisoners on hunger strike who are at this time in critical health situations.”

Supporters of the declaration included legislators from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, Honduras, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Uruguay, Venezuela, Spain and the Spanish autonomous regions of Catalonia and Galicia. (, Chile, Jan. 24; European Parliament News, Jan. 24;, Viña del Mar, Jan. 27)

On Jan. 18, a week before legislators arrived for the summit, the Chilean national police fired Lt. Walter Ramírez, the agent convicted of killing the young Mapuche Matias Catrileo on Jan. 3, 2008; Catrileo was shot in the back. Despite the conviction, Ramírez was never imprisoned, and he had remained on the force. Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick released a statement saying the firing “shows that the force always follows the law.” Mónica Quezada, the victim’s mother, told reporters that she hoped this will help bring about “a policy of the state that when an officer commits unnecessary violence resulting in death, the crime does not go unpunished.”  (Miami Herald, Jan. 18, from AP)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 27.