Mapuche Hunger Strike Continues

An appeals court in the southern Chilean city of Concepcion has ordered 32 Mapuche prisoners, who launched a hunger strike more than 40 days ago to protest what they say are irregularities in their trials, to be force fed. 

 A lawyer representing the prisoners, who have been accused of crimes such as terrorist arson, attempted murder, assault and illicit association, has said the measure cannot be enforced. Adolfo Montiel told Radio Cooperativa on Aug. 24 that he would go to the Supreme Court to seek that order be overturned, saying that prison officials are not authorized to use force against the prisoners.

The prisoners, who are jailed in five prisons in southern Chile, and their family members and defense attorneys say that the harsh Pinochet-era Anti-Terrorism Law, which was enacted during the 2000-2006 administration of President Ricardo Lagos against Mapuche activists who burned privately owned forestland they claimed as their ancestral territory, is used against them and they argue that they had been defending their ancestral lands.

They reported that they were denied basic legal rights and subjected to a secret investigation process, which hampered the ability to build a defense, with faceless witnesses, and the right to be believed innocent until proven guilty was ignored, and some of them have been jailed for more than a year without trial.

On Aug. 23, around 20 Mapuche activists peacefully took over the studios of Radio Bio Bio in Santiago, to protest the media´s lack of coverage of the hunger strike, alleging that the media outlets have created a climate of misinformation and silence on the issue.

The Attorney General is seeking up to around 100 years for some of the Mapuches´ alleged crimes. The jailed Mapuches have declared themselves political prisoners.

The close to 1 million Mapuche in Chile, which has a population of around 16 million, are the nation´s largest indigenous group, and have long fought the government for land rights. Most are settled in the resource-rich southern part of the country, an important logging zone.


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