Chief Juana Calfunao imprisoned again

Political persecution against a brave Mapuche fighter

By Reynaldo Mariqueo - 8 January 2006

Lonko Calfunao's wounds had not yet healed and she had not yet recovered from the trauma caused by the police violence weeks earlier, when she was again beaten and detained, this time by the police in Temuco , the IX Region of the Wallmapu, the Mapuche homeland.

The news of her detention, on 4th January 2006, was reported by one of her children, in an e-mail that reads: "I am Juana's son; at the moment my mother is detained (.). I went to visit her in the place where she is detained; she is well, but she has several injuries". This message reminded me of a similar situation that Lonko Calfunao herself lived through. When she was young, her own mother was imprisoned for the same cause for which she is imprisoned today. During her trip to England , she told me about the terrible nightmare that her family and her community has lived through and still lives through. Relating the story of her mother to me, she said: "When my mother was imprisoned and I went to visit her, she always received me cheerfully and with a lot of affection on seeing me. She would say: "I'm well, daughter, don't worry about me" - and with a lump in her throat the Lonko said: "but I knew she was not well". 

Lonko (Chief) Juana Calfunao is an important authority of the Mapuche people, and a representative of the Juan Paillalef community, located in the municipality of Cunco , IX Region. In her capacity as representative and spokesperson for her community, she leads the struggle for their rights and the return of lands stolen by neighbouring Chilean landowners, who have embarked on a sustained campaign of intimidation and violence against her family and offspring that has continued over decades.

On 5 th January 2006, at the request of the Public Prosecutor, Lonko Calfunao was accused of the "offence of disorderly conduct" and "threatening police officers on duty". The Public Prosecutor Alberto Chiffelle described Juana and her community as "a gang with Juana as its leader". The Open Criminal Court of Temuco granted the Public Prosecutor's application and ordered preventive imprisonment, considering that ''her liberty is a danger to society". The Lonko is now detained in Temuco Women's Penitentiary and must appear, along with her sister Luisa, before the Open Criminal Court of Temuco on 13 th February.

Lonko Calfunao's physical health is in serious danger.  

Lonko Calfunao has had her life threatened by estate owners and the police and she is constantly followed by anonymous individuals. There are many irrefutable testimonies and the evidence of the outrageous acts committed against her is there for all to see. The number of incidents that she has experienced at the hands of the police and landowners make us fear that her life is truly in danger. The fact that she is in prison today threatens her physical and psychological wellbeing. In May 2000, when previously detained in the 2nd Police Station in Temuco , she was tortured by the police and lost her unborn child as a result. Even then she accused of "mistreating police officers on duty". The police have vented their rage against her because she has had the courage to denounce them, for the diverse violations of her dignity and human rights suffered during her detentions.

During her visit to England, we listened to her stories, read the abundance of testimonies on her situation, examined the documentation and interviews that she has given to the media, as well as reading the files of the cases lying dormant in the archives of the Chilean courts.  As Public Prosecutor Chiffelle has reaffirmed ''she is considered a danger to society''. It would, therefore, be unsurprising if in the near future they were to get rid of her, as she is considered a nuisance by the powerful estate owners of the region and because she reveals the truth about their treatment of indigenous peoples internationally, thus damaging the image of the Chilean government.

I asked her if she feared for her life and she told me: "If some day they inform you of my death, under strange circumstances, with such explanations as that I drowned when I was bathing in the river or that I committed suicide or disappeared because I was suffering from depression, don't believe them, lamngen (brother). It's likely that they have killed me" . This accusation made a deep impression on me and at those times when she is at the mercy of the police, who hate and repress her, our fears for her physical safety inevitably increase. The information that reaches us on the latest events, (such as the photo for example of the bloodstained horse that she was riding, wounded with a police bullet undoubtedly aimed at her, during a direct action protest by her community), cannot but confirm this fear.

Besides the police repression, Lonko Calfunao has been the victim of libel, harassment and manipulation by the press, who obey the interests of the landowners. These landowners feel that the earnings gained by the theft of our lands are threatened and, when faced with the action of leaders of the calibre of this valiant Mapuche woman, they find it hard to conceal their rage. So it is no surprise that tendentious information appears with regard to her, and that accusations made by anonymous individuals are circulated on the internet. Sowing discord is one of the tactics used by the Chilean intelligence services and is part of the official policies of Ricardo Lagos' Government. Their objective is to generate artificial conflicts by means of the manipulation of information, creating distrust between leaders and the Mapuche people.

For their part, the Chilean government, using the diplomatic corps abroad, has launched a publicised attack on Lonko Calfunao. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through its embassies, had its own version circulate on the accusations formulated by her in Europe . The document, entitled "Information on the judicial situation of Señora Juana Calfunao", was sent to the most important human rights organisations in the world, in a vain attempt to discredit her. This document was rebutted point by point by Freddy Barriga Bucarey, Lonko Calfunao's lawyer, in a document dated 19 th October 2005, which I have in my possession. In fact the Chilean government is attempting to counteract the growing campaign of international denunciation on the violation of the human rights of the Mapuche people, strongly reinforced with the presence of Lonko Calfunao in Europe.

The Chilean government uses dictatorial laws

It was in the 1990s, in order to control the Mapuche movement, which was becoming increasingly widespread, that the Chilean Government first began to apply the Internal Security of the State Law and later the Antiterrorism Law. Both these items of legislation were introduced during the military dictatorship and focused on crushing the democracy movement. These laws provide the police with additional legal instruments to enable them to raid, repress, pursue and imprison Mapuche leaders, doubling the length of their sentences and the severity of the prison treatment of detainees. In recent years this repression has become increasingly selective and is aimed at "beheading" the Mapuche movement, as the current Government's spokesmen have declared openly - and unscrupulously - to the media. The repression is accompanied by espionage for intelligence purposes that Mapuches have consistently denounced over the last 15 years. The surveillance, telephone tapping and audiovisual tape recordings against Mapuche leaders and their organisations by the intelligence services have been publicly exposed. When presented with evidence published by the media in recent months, government officials admitted such activities had taken place.

Although there is now a democracy in Chile , the persecution against Juana Calfunao is conducted using the same repressive laws and the same policing and prison methods as those of the Pinochet dictactorship. She herself she was an active member of the democracy movement during the Pinochet era and says that she never imagined that those same laws would be used against her now under democratic rule. At the moment those same laws are used in the Wallmapu in a racist way because they are applied exclusively against Mapuches. In one of her recent interviews with the press, Lonko Calfunao stated, in reference to human rights and the detentions that she has been subjected to: "If I had been detained during the dictatorship I would have been considered a political prisoner; now they accuse me of the same offence, but this time they consider me a common criminal." Indeed, with the exception of a single case, all Mapuche political prisoners are considered common delinquents and are imprisoned alongside them, putting their lives in danger. 

The repression against Juana Calfunao, hundreds of Mapuche leaders and thousands of community members during the last 15 years has been conducted within the framework of this strategy of political persecution by the Chilean institutions. It has been extensively demonstrated that such repression violates the fundamental freedoms and human rights of the Mapuche, both individual and collective. The Chilean government first justified this repressive policy against the Mapuche as necessary for the rule of law, modernisation and public order. Later it was also taken to be included in the framework of the war against "international terrorism", in response to the controversial call from the current US administration, as a consequence of the tragic events of September 2001 in New York and Washington .

In order to legitimise this new anti-Mapuche front, key figures in Chilean political life, as well as certain non-governmental organisations, sections of the press with racist tendencies and public prosecutors have attempted to associate the Mapuche movement with the struggles of other peoples. These include the Zapatistas in Chiapas in Mexico , the IRA in Northern Ireland , the Kurds in Iraq and Turkey , ETA in Spain and the Palestinians. Since they have been unable to prove any link, they do so by demonstrating the connections that exist between the various Mapuche websites. In this way the website that I coordinate, for example  - according to these gentlemen - is located inside a network of subversive pages, because in the links section there is a link with a Mapuche website that in turn has a link with another website that has a link with websites of organisations of the movements mentioned above. In this way, the attempt is made to involve the Mapuche in conflicts in far-off lands of which the rural communities are completely unaware and do not understand and that have nothing directly to do with the centuries-old struggle for justice and freedom of the Mapuche people.

Both the application of the Anti-terrorist Law against Mapuches and the excuses given by the Chilean authorities have been harshly criticised, not only by Mapuche organisations but also by well known human rights organisations from all over the world. The Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Commission of the UN on Indigenous Affairs, Mr. Stavenhagen, in his report and correspondence with the Chilean authorities, has repeatedly expressed serious reservations regarding the use of this Law in the context of the legitimate struggle of the Mapuche for their rights. Although the criticisms were expressed in diplomatic language, the reprimand from Mr. Stavenhagen and the condemnation underlying these reports is clear.

The trials and tribulations of Lonko Calfunao within the Chilean "democracy"

Lonko Calfunao has suffered continuing attacks from those attempting to take possession of her land. She has received constant death threats from the estate owners near to her community. Her house has been destroyed three times and in 2004 her uncle, Lonko of a neighbouring community, died in mysterious circumstances in one of these firebomb attacks. Despite the seriousness of these incidents, the Chilean justice system has not begun an exhaustive investigation to clarify the facts and punish those responsible.

The public denunciations made by Lonko Calfunao about the police brutality that she suffered on 12 th May 2000 in the 2nd Police Station in Temuco , which caused her to abort the baby she was expecting, have reverberated in the media of the region. Lonko Calfunao lodged an action in the Military Office of the Public Prosecutor in Temuco against police officers from that Police station, without so far achieving any result. This has meant that since then the police have wasted no opportunity to attack and intimidate her, undoubtedly encouraged by the judicial apathy. On 5 th May 2002, while she was in the Mayor's Office in Temuco going through formalities regarding the paperwork for the studies of her children Waikilaf and Carolina , she was suddenly attacked by 4 police officers. A policeman with the surname Palabechino said "this Indian needs to be killed" whilst he was hitting her. The aforementioned policeman hit Lonko Calfunao in the mouth with the police radio he was carrying, smashing her teeth. Once again the police detained her, and later charged her son Waikilaf of "mistreatment of police officers on duty", so preventing Waikilaf from attending his classes at university in the normal manner.

The list of attacks by the police against Lonko Calfunao is a long one. The most recent took place on 23rd December 2005, when police, at the orders of Cristian Alarcón, Captain of the 3rd Police Station of Padre Las Casas, attacked the Juan Paillalef community violently with tear gas and shotguns, in a violent unauthorised raid, contravening all the legal processes established by Chilean law. During the assault, Lonko Calfunao was hit, as was her sister Luisa, in the presence of her children and the children of the community; they were then taken to the 3rd Police Station in Padre Las Casas under arrest. The judge of the Open Criminal Court of Temuco, Luz Mónica Madariaga, declared the police action illegal and ordered her release, at the same time ordering the Public Prosecutor Mauricio Torres to investigate the bruises and lacerations on the face and limbs of Lonko Calfunao and her sister.

Non-compliance with the legal requirements by the police seems to be the norm, since they appear to have the approval of the head of Government of the IX Region, Govenor Ricardo Celis. The declaration he made to the media justifying the police action of 23rd December 2005 made it clear to public opinion and the security services that, when it comes to resolving conflicts relating to the Mapuche, the police officers don't need to abide by the rule of law.

Among the various problems affecting the members of the Juan Paillalef community is the construction of a local road that splits their community in half, the creation of which is in contravention of Indigenous Law Nº 19.253. The local road benefits certain non-Mapuche landowners in the area and its construction was not negotiated to at least seek to compensate the community for damages. The struggle to defend their rights led, on 2 nd November 2005, to police officers from Los Laureles effectively holding hostage members of the Juan Paillalef community. This police action took place whilst Lonko Calfunao was in Europe . The police justified the action with the pretext of preventing protest actions that might hinder the construction of this road, so denying the community members the right to peaceful protest, a basic right that is recognised in democratic and civilised societies, of which Chile claims to be one.

It is paradoxical that Public Prosecutor Claudio Beratto decreed personal protective measures for Lonko Calfunao and her family (case RUC (0500) 313070-5); this was the responsibility of the police officers of Los Laureles, the same police who injured her. The decision to protect the Lonko was made following the arson attack on her house for the third time (in July 2005) and due to death threats made against her. From what we have seen, the police officers of Los Laureles have clearly executed this judicial measure inefficiently. Yet estate owners who claim to have been threatened, such as Mr. Jorge Luchsinger, are given police protection 24 hours a day.

Winka (Chilean) families such as Álvaro Taladriz, Ríos Muñoz, Muñoz Garcés and Villagra y Barra settled in the Wallmapu (Mapuche territory) following the official recognition by the "Indigenous Settlement Commission" (in 1913) of the 120 hectares of land that were then assigned to the Juan Paillalef community. Today they have 35 hectares left. During the last half century, the families and their descendants mentioned above have systematically been taking possession of the community land, which is why they burn their houses, make death threats, intimidate and attack physically and psychologically. On 6th May 1998, Lonko Calfunao began a criminal lawsuit in the Second Criminal Court of Temuco, for crimes of unlawful association, threats and illegal possession of weapons, against Aliro and Álvaro Taladriz, Ricardo Cid, Luís González, Hugo Martínez, Roinso Muñoz, Guillermo Pobrete, Antonio Ortiz and Luís and Patricio Ríos, who destroyed her crops and burned her house, yet - to the surprise of non-Chileans, who are not familiar with Chilean justice - these individuals have never been brought to justice for their crimes. This same group of people has been identified by the community members of the region as being part of a paramilitary group. Patricio and Luís Ríos, members of the aforementioned group, openly threatened Lonko Calfunao, according to a document presented by her to the Criminal Court of Temuco and according to her testimony; they warned her that: "if we continue claiming the land, they were going to kill me and my mother, and that they were going to set on fire all the fields of crops". Since then the Lonko's house has been burnt down three times, whilst the case lies dormant in the Chilean courts.

Lonko Juana Calfunao Renounces Chilean Nationality

On 28 th December 2005, the Lonko Juana Calfunao, Mapuche political authority, renounced Chilean nationality. This is in protest against the various human rights abuses she has suffered throughout her life, beginning in childhood, the absence of personal security and protection, and the failure to bring her justice under successive Chilean governments.  Her decision strikes a chord with all those, such as myself, who identify themselves as Mapuche. It marks an important point in our struggle to recover our sovereignty and national identity and brings a new dimension to the fight of the Mapuche people for the re-establishment of our rights and our ability to exercise self determination.

It is clear that we Mapuche people, whether from the Ngulumapu or Puelmapu territiories (in Chile and Argentina respectively), don't identify ourselves as Chilean or Argentine, but simply as Mapuche.  This is due to the fact that we have our own nationality that existed prior to the formation of the republics of Chile and Argentina in 1810.  The imposed Chilean and Argentine nationalities were arbitrary and the illegal result of a violent war of occupation and genocide that began 50 years after the formation of the aforementioned republics.  The annexation of the Mapuche territory to the jurisdiction of new states resulted in the military defeat of the Mapuche nation in 1885 with the Arauco War and Pacification of Arucanía in Chile and the Desert Campaigns in Argentina .

However, this did not affect our nationality, and we continued to be Mapuche.  The indisputable test of the recognition and ability to exercise our sovereign rights was the establishment of the frontier between the Mapuche Nation and the Spanish Crown on the 6th January 1641, a day which the Mapuche people now commemorate as the "Day of Sovereignty of the Mapuche Nation".

It is important to highlight how both the Chilean and Argentinian authorities and the majority of society in these countries recognise that we are ethnically distinctive to those who promulgate special laws for the Mapuche (the "Laws of the Indians") with the aim, according to them, to "promote and protect" our rights.  Neither can one forget that the Mapuches are given special treatment when these laws of social control are applied, nor the different experience the Mapuche people have within the justice system.

This policy is also prevalent in the socio-economic sector through discrimination, racism, social exclusion and, ultimately, the poverty that distinguishes us and which we have been driven to as a result of the systematic plundering of our natural resources.  It is for these reasons that the decision by the Lonko Calfunao to renounce Chilean nationality has not been a surprise to anyone.

The Lonko Calfunao's renunciation of Chilean nationality came from a period of reflection about our own nationality which we see as intimately linked to our cultural identity, history, social organisation and spirituality.  It is expressed through civic events such as the Trawun (the Mapuche parliament), the Ngullatun (religious) ceremonies, the celebration of our heroes and heroines, our commemorative days and national festivals like Weñoy Xipantu (the Mapuche New Year) the hoisting of our national flag, the Mapuche national emblem on days of national significance. Finally, by emphasizing our unity through the fact that, despite our struggle against oppression, the national identity of the Mapuche people lives on and becomes ever stronger.

In my opinion, we should not consider losing our rights to the Chilean or Argentine states, as to act within our rights as Mapuche people is inherent in our culture, as is our responsibility to practise self determination, necessarily implying the re-establishment of our ancestral institutions which, in my opinion, should include the reorganisation of our judicial, political and civil systems.  If these rights are not respected by the Chilean state we should turn to international tribunals, because international law recognises our rights, in particular the UN Charter, the international Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which have been ratified by Chile.

Translated by Leslie Ray

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