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After 58 days on hunger-strike

Life of Mapuche Chief in serious danger

Press Release - 3rd October 2007 

Chief Juana Calfunao and her sister Luisa of the Juan Pailallef community, Chile , committed to hunger strike on August 7th 2007 in protest at their unjust detention and the injustices suffered by their family and community at the hands of the Chilean authorities and the repressive legislation applied to Mapuche authorities and ancestral land rights protesters. Now entering the 58th day of their protest, official medical reports of 29 th September confirm that their health is rapidly deteriorating they have suffered severe weight loss (approx 13% of their body weight) they are at risk of severe malnutrition, they are conscious yet lethargic, and are now at high risk of cardio respiratory problems and renal failure, decreased immune system function with gastro intestinal complications, in short their lives' are now in serious jeopardy.

Their demands are:

Mapuche groups and communities and international human rights organisations express serious concern for the physical and psychological safety of all Mapuche political prisoners to whom status as such, has not been recognised by the Chilean authorities. Subsequently those Mapuche who fight for justice and freedom are classified as common criminals and subject to detention accordingly, endangering their personal safety. Ironically under the former Pinochet dictatorship, social activists including the Mapuches struggle for land rights were classified as political prisoners.  

Chief Juana Calfunao remains incarcerated under repressive state law in a Temuco prison in so called 'preventative detention'.  Her pre trial indefinite detention which began on 15th Nov 2006 was the result of her protest in defence of community land against both private and state corporations.

The initial detention was made on the charge that Chief Calfunao and her sister had used 'aggression against Chilean police officers on duty' during a police raid on the community on 23rd of December 2005, following a protest by the community against the illicit construction of a road (without the permission of free and informed consent) running through the ancestral community territory. However official judicial records show that in a court hearing immediately following the arrest of Chief Calfunao and her sister the presiding Judge Luz Monica Madariaga ruled the police action on the day in question as unlawful and expressly requested an official investigation of the clearly visible cuts and bruises on the face and body of Chief Calfunao. Regardless of this outcome Chief Calfunao along with her sister were later sentenced to a period of pre trial indefinite detention. To date no disciplinary measures have been implemented against the police officers in question.

Chief Calfunao her sister and husband and two of her sons along with a number of other Mapuche political prisoners are due to appear for sentencing in front of an open tribunal in Temuco on the 22nd October 2007 where they have requested the presence of independent observers from international human rights organisations.  They are preparing to expect a sentence of between 10 to 17 years respectively.

Mapuche International Link have again requested the urgent intervention of international human rights organisations in support of Chief Calfunao and her family.

Please contact the following address to express your concern and solidarity:

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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