Chile: Mapuche prisoners end fast, form commission

On June 9 four Mapuche activists imprisoned in Chile’s central AraucanĂ­a region decided to end a liquids-only hunger strike they started on March 15 to protest their convictions in what they considered an unfair trial. The prisoners—JosĂ© Huenuche Reimán, Jonathan Huillical MĂ©ndez, HĂ©ctor Llaitul Carillanca and RamĂłn Llanquileo Pilquimán—stopped the fast after relatives, human rights organizations and members of the Catholic church made an agreement to form a Commission for the Defense of the Rights of the Mapuche People to promote and defend indigenous rights.

The four activists were tried along with 13 others for “terrorism” in a case relating to a fire and an attack on a prosecutor. All were acquitted of the “terrorism” charge—which was based on a law passed during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990)—but the four hunger strikers were convicted of common crimes. The Supreme Court of Justice issued a decision on June 3 reducing their sentences: Llaitul’s sentence was lowered from 25 to 14 years in prison, while the prison terms for the other three were lowered from 20 to eight years. But the activists insisted on continuing their struggle to have a fair trial without the use of the “antiterrorism” law.

The new commission includes Concepción archbishop Fernando Chomalí and auxiliary bishop Pedro Ossandon; Lorena Fríes, director of the National Human Rights Institute; Amerigo Incalcaterra, South America representative for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; José Fernando Díaz, from the National Indigenous Pastoral Commission (southern zone); Mapuche spokespeople Natividad Llanquileo and Millaray Garrido; and Pamela Matus, a relative of the prisoners. (Adital, Brazil, June 10, some from wire services)

In a talk with the Chilean radio station Radio Cooperativa, Mapuche spokesperson Natividad Llanquileo said that the four activists were “much better” after ending the strike and that a full recovery was expected in week. But she warned that there could be problems in the dialogue with the government, which she said had failed to comply with earlier promises. (La Tercera, Santiago, June 11)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 12.

See our last post on Chile and the Mapuche struggle.