A letter To His Holiness The Dalai Lama on the situation of Mapuche Chief Juana Calfunao

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The Office of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
Thekchen Choeling P.O. McLeod Ganj
Dharamsala H.P. 176219
India .

7th October, 2007 

To His Holiness Dalai Lama,

We respectfully wish to draw to the awareness of His Holiness the grave situation of Chief Juana Calfunao Paillalef, a Mapuche ancestral authority, and that of her sister Luisa Calfunao. On the 7th of August 2007 Chief Calfunao and Luisa committed to hunger strike in order to highlight the maltreatment of imprisoned Mapuche activists and ancestral leaders, to demand recognition of all Mapuche political prisoners by the Chilean state, to reinstate access to family visitation rights and for recognition of Mapuche ancestral authorities.

On this the 62nd day of their protest, It is with great sadness that we can now confirm that Chief Calfunao suffered heart failure on the 2nd Oct due to her deteriorating state of health. Today she remains in a critical condition.

Chief Calfunao and members of her family were detained using indefinite pre trial detention under Chilean state law, as a result of protesting against illegal construction of a road running through their ancestral territory in Nov 2006. Despite an earlier ruling that the Police action had been illegal Chief Calfunao and her family remain incarcerated. 

In the pursuit of defending their ancestral territory (the primary link to Mapuche spirituality) Chief Calfunao her family and community have not only in the present but for many generations suffered consistent brutality and repression at the hands of successive Chilean authorities.

Her Grandfather former Chief of the community was murdered in Valdivia prison due to his protest in defence of ancestral land, Juana's Chief Uncle Basilio Coñoenao was murdered in a suspected arson attack on the Calfunao family home in of three similar attacks. Further Chief Calfunao's mother was beaten and detained on many occasions during her childhood and adult life. Following her arrest and detention between 12th and 16th of May 2000 Chief Calfunao herself suffered the miscarriage of her unborn child as a result of police beatings she which endured whilst in detention.

Your Holiness throughout this time Chief Calfunao has been unable to attain justice within the Chilean judicial system for the atrocities suffered by both her family and community.

Currently in detention are Chief Calfunao; her husband Antonio Cadin; Sister Luisa Calfunao; sons Wailkilaf and Jorge; mother Mercedes Paillalef and daughter Carolina Maciel the later two being held on house arrest. The Calfunao family are representative of the many other Mapuche political prisoners also incarcerated in various prisons across the Chilean State .

In reference to the speech made by His Holiness which stated with regard to the Tibetan people, ''even when faced with dangers to their lives, they have, in every respect, remained steadfast in upholding the higher cause of their ethnicity and the common faith in their future prospects, keeping in mind their rights as a people''.

Your Holiness' sentiments also reflect the struggle of the Mapuche people for justice, freedom and self determination. We would therefore humbly request that Your Holiness pray for the protection and freedom of Chief Calfunao her family and the Mapuche nation. 

Yours Sincerely,

Reynaldo Mariqueo
General Secretary

Nina Dean
Vice Secretary

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