Indigenous community leaders on Aug. 23 staged a take-over of Santiago-based Radio Bío-Bío to protest the station’s failure to report on the hunger strike of 32 Mapuche activists. The protesters demanded that Radio Bío-Bío air an interview with a spokesperson for the prisoners, who began their hunger strike on July 12. Dressed in traditional garb and carrying musical instruments, the Mapuches gathered outside the studio’s main entrance at 9:30 AM and put a padlock on the door.
The protest was aimed at breaking the “communications barrier” around the hunger strike, activist Olga Trai Plantileo told EFE. “What we are asking and demanding is the freedom to inform,” she said. “That they stop making people believe our people are terrorists, that they show reality as it is.”
Bío-Bío management, which described the Mapuche protest as a “visit,” said there was no interview. “They made a visit in which they delivered their complaints. We took note and nothing more,” station director Rodrigo Quinteros told EFE.
Many of the imprisoned activists were arrested for illegal land occupations or attacks on the equipment or personnel of multinational companies, both of which are considered acts of terrorism under the Pinochet-era Anti-Terrorism Law, No.19.027. The hunger strike is in direct protest of the law, which allows the state to hold people for up to two years without charges, restricts defense attorneys’ access to evidence, and allows testimony from anonymous witnesses.
The take-over occurred one week after government documents surfaced alleging links between Mapuche activists, the Chilean Communist Party, and Colombia’s FARC guerilla organization. Colombia’s prosecutor general apparently delivered the document to Chilean authorities last month, detailing Chilean ties to FARC. In the document, seven Communist Party members, including party president Guillermo Teillier, now an elected deputy to Chile’s congress, are cited as having political ties with the group.
Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera condemned any collaboration between Chileans and armed groups. Piñera said that in his last visit to Bogotá he discussed the issue with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. “I approached President Santos about the ties with the FARC and Chile,” Piñera said. “We agreed to maintain a partnership to end the links between Colombian terrorists and terrorist groups operating in Chile.” (Americas Quarterly blog, LAHT, Aug. 24; MercoPress, Aug. 18)
See our last post on the Mapuche struggle.