Chile: Mapuche political prisoners call for international solidarity

Mapuche political prisoners located within the colonial borders of Chile are requesting international solidarity. There is a call for action on August 12. The prisoners are on a hunger strike, which has almost reached thirty days.

The Mapuche are an indigenous nation that successfully resisted spanish occupation. Wallmapu—or Mapuche country—extends across the nation-state borders of southern Chile and Argentina. Starting in 1861, their lands were usurped by the Chilean state during a violent process that was called the pacification. Mapuche community members were murdered and jailed by the military, and Mapuche conflict with the state continued throughout the 20 century.

After the military coup in 1973, Mapuche community members were targeted by the Pinochet dictatorship, including an attempt to erase Mapudungun, the Mapuche language. After the end of the dictatorship, there was a strong reemergence of the Mapuche conflict, and the movement became increasingly visible. The conflict seeks autonomy from the Chilean state; the state considers the conflict one of its largest threats. Mapuche communities often have local conflicts with multinational forestry plantations and large farm estates that usurped Mapuche territory.

The presidency of Ricardo Lagos (2000-2006) began using the dictatorship-era Antiterrorist Law against Mapuche community members in conflict. The law allows prosecutors to use unidentified witnesses. The witnesses’ voices are scrambled, and their faces are hidden by a screen.

There are also cases of Mapuche militants who have been shot and killed by police such as Matías Catrileo and Alex Lemun.

There was another profile hunger strike in 2008. The strike included the participation of Patricia Troncoso; she continued the hunger strike for over 100 days. Due to the length of the hunger strike, Troncoso’s case was one of the few moments that the english language press mentioned the Mapuche conflict.

Read about it at the LA Times:
http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jan/…-mapuche28

For more information in Spanish check:
http://www.paismapuche.org/
http://www.hommodolars.org/

From Kurrüf:

Comrades in solidarity,

We are the support network for Mapuche political prisoners located within Chile called Kurrüf. There are currently about fifty Mapuche political prisoners in Chile, separated by various jails in Wallmapu—Mapuche territory in the southern part of the country. The physical separation of the prisoners is principally the result of the division enforced by the Chilean state, intended to leave the prisoners quiet and without any organization.

The re-articulation of the demands of the Mapuche territory—usurped by the Chilean state during the so-called pacification of the Araucanía—began during the 1990s. Historically, the Mapuche territory extended 10,000,000 hectares. During the pacification of the Araucanía, the territory was reduced to 500,000 hectares, and Mapuche community members currently live on approximately 275,000 hectares. Mapuche community members located on the Chilean side of the colonial border do not have any legal recognition, much less autonomy over their land. The socio-economic reality in the Mapuche community in the countryside is one of extreme poverty. The majority of the land that could be used for agriculture is contaminated by the pine and eucalyptus plantations, owned by the large forestry companies that exploit the territory. In this context, the demand for the territory is that the Chilean state return a large portion of the land that historically belongs to the Mapuche community and was stolen by the Chilean state through deceit and introducing the plague of alcoholism.

During the first emblematic wave of political demands, five Mapuche community members were condemned to ten years and one day by the Antiterrorist Law for the arson of the Poluco Pidenco farm estate, an estate that belongs to a high profile business man. According to the prosecution, the supposed weapons in the attack were rocks, fallen branches, and sticks. Soon afterwards, there was a wave of persecutions and jailing of community members, a wave that up to today has not ended but instead multiplied.

Currently, the prisoners are being processed by the Antiterrorist Law, a law that was put into place during the Pinochet military dictatorship. The cases for which they are jailing our brothers and sisters are not comparable to terrorism in any way. The ways that they use the law to jail them involves physical and psychological torture in most cases. The judgements of the defendants are not just; the prosecution uses falsified evidence and unidentified witnesses to accuse them. All of the evidence is manipulated and invented by the prosector assigned to the case. The brothers and sisters pass up to two years in prison before seeing a court, as presumed participants in the incident. The community members are facing a minimum of forty years as the prosecutor has requested, and they face a maximum of 103 years in jail.

The prison conditions that the community members live are extreme, including overcrowding and infestation. Their families are also forced to live in extreme poverty. The majority of the prisoners have young children. The homes are generally only supported by the community member, and when they are imprisoned, the families are left adrift.

As the support network for the prisoners, we have the ability to constantly visit them, assist them with organizing actions outside of prison, and be a bridge between the organizations that assist them and the prisoners themselves. We concern ourselves with their access to food and artisan materials to work inside the prison. We assist with local court cases, accompanying their families and assisting with the legal defense costs. We are still students, and we do not have great financial resources to sustain these activities. This is why we seek solidarity from international brothers and sisters. We do not only ask for economic assistance; we ask for you to spread the knowledge of what is happening to our Mapuche brothers and sisters. The difficulty in transmitting information from this country is tremendous. We need people to inform themselves and become conscious of what is happening. Everything that is shared between us, while we are confined by the borders of nation-states, helps break down the lack of shared information. Without this information, we are left in a state of inaction. We should not let even one more minute pass without standing in solidarity. We must rise up to stop the injustices that keep us silent.

Greetings from Chile and Wallmapu,
Support network for the Mapuche Political Prisoners
KURRÜF

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