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Update on the current situation of the Mapuche in Chile

27 September 2007

Grave Concern for Mapuche Chief on hunger strike

Chilean authorities refuse to comply with international human rights legislation

There is now grave concern for the welfare of Chief Juana Calfunao and her sister Luisa Calfunao, who have been on hunger strike since 7 August. They were imprisoned in Temuco in November 2006 after being involved in protests to defend their community land against local landowners. After suffering a long history of harassment against their entire family, including this most recent detention, they resorted to a hunger strike in order to protest their innocence and highlight the use of repressive measures against the Mapuche.

The Chilean government, however, is refusing to change its policy on a range of anti-terrorist legislation, including preventive detention, which is being used against the Mapuche as they engage in democratic protests to defend their ancestral territory. Their stance flies in the face of work taking place in the international arena aimed at protecting indigenous peoples. This month the UN General Assembly adopted the 'United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples' with an overwhelming majority. The Declaration recognises that indigenous peoples have the right to full enjoyment as a collective or as individuals of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. This includes the right to assembly and peaceful protest.

As well as the urgent concern for Chief Calfunao and her sister, there are ongoing worries about the safety and wellbeing of a number of other Mapuche prisoners. On 1 st September Ernesto Lincopan was hospitalised following an attack by a fellow inmate in Temuco prison, who stabbed him in the shoulder. This is one recent example of the kind of intimidation Mapuche prisoners are left exposed to, as they have no status as political prisoners and are therefore detained alongside violent criminals. Other Mapuche campaigners, including Chief Calfunao's husband, Antonio Cadin, suffer from chronic health problems but have not received adequate care and treatment whilst in detention. Their communities have now asked for the assistance of an independent doctor from the International Red Cross.

Chief Calfunao, her sister and husband and a number of other Mapuche political prisoners are due to appear in front of an open tribunal in Temuco on 22 October. They have been told to expect sentences of between 10 to 17 years and have requested the presence of independent observers from international human rights organizations at the hearing.

Mapuche International Link appeals once again to the international community to express their solidarity with the Mapuche. Please address your concerns to the following authorities.


Please write also to the diplomatic representative of Chile in your country.

Mapuche International Link

For more information, please visit our website at


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