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Chilean Law Spells Assimilation or Annihilation of the Mapuche Nation

Press Release – 1st October, 2010

82 days since the beginning of the Mapuche hunger strike, as the political prisoners are on the verge of death, the government of Sebastián Piñera, continue to avoid any genuine attempt at resolving the Mapuche Nation’s historic concerns, made manifest today through the 38 Mapuche hunger strikers. The revisions that are currently being made to the Anti Terrorist Law are not remotely relevant to the demands of the strikers, and it is for this reason that the strike continues. The current reform of Anti terrorist law wholly fails to include each of the four demands of the Mapuche political prisoners on hunger strike.

Today as a result of the lack of political will to resolve the demands of the strikers in order to avert a fatal yet avoidable outcome, a group of Mapuche mothers of victims of violence, murder, political prisoners and hunger strikers led by Lonko Juana Calfunao, mother of hospitalized hunger striker Waikilaf, took to the streets of Chile in a march of solidarity from Temuco to Santiago with the intention of confronting President Piñera with their concern for the life of their children. However the President failed to receive them; instead they were met by the Interior Minister Mr. Rodrigo Hinzpeter.   

The Mapuche mothers and families require the government to respond to the demands of the strikers: End the Anti-Terrorist Law enforcement, an end to double use of civil and military tribunals and end to the use of faceless witnesses. The delegation also demand the immediate release of all Mapuche political prisoners due to their potentially fatal state of health, in direct accordance with the resolution passed in response to the hunger strike this week by Mapuche Chiefs during a traditional Mapuche parliament which states: "As highest Mapuche authorities we reject any application of the Chilean law towards our peoples, we believe that state law has no jurisdiction over our territory, therefore we strongly request the government to immediately release our children from Chilean state prisons which hold them hostage in our own land.

Under Anti- terrorist Law the mere accusation of a threat by a Chilean landowner or businessman against a Mapuche person is viewed by the police as reason enough to charge them as severely as if the offence had actually been committed with the additional penalty of quadruple sentencing. Recently, Señor Madariaga, who works as a defence attorney for Mapuche commented in a TV interview: "The law punishes the threat of crime as if the crime had actually taken place”. He also mentioned the problem of the ‘faceless witnesses’, anonymous witnesses are frequently used to provide evidence against Mapuche being tried under the Anti Terrorism Law. In a recent case that he worked on it emerged that one witness was a known criminal who had been paid by the state to incriminate Mapuche leaders.

In a characteristically aggressive defence of their primary economic interests, the prevalent Chilean landowners and resources manufacture corporations general perspective can be summarised in a recent statement by Biobío president of the Timber Corporation (Corma), Jorge Seron, who said, "All acts of violence and attacks on private property should be prosecuted because we have to have the rule of law, there can’t be exceptions. The current law is what it is, and it must prevail”.

As Chilean societies established ruling elite minority these are the voices which ultimately command the rule of law and morality, whilst the Mapuche’s historic demands for equality and the return of their ancestral territory are clearly in direct opposition to the attainment of such capitalist objectives, as such the Mapuche’s legitimate democratic rights are systematically discredited via the use of Anti terrorist Law and the perpetuation of scandalous criminal accusations which portray them as violent criminals, arsonists and murderers. There has not been a singular recorded incident in which a Mapuche person has harmed nor killed anybody in the context of ancestral land reclamation, yet there have been six young Mapuche killed by the police in the last seven years including one teenager still missing after being detained by the authorities.

We would like to make absolutely clear that the Mapuche are not involved in any type of terrorist acts involving fire arms, live ammunition or threat to life. The Mapuche hunger strikers are serving completely disproportionate sentences of ten, twenty, even one hundred years for crimes such as ‘threat of fire’ and ‘offences against authority’ which in most cases have never been proven and in cases which a conviction has been brought this has been achieved by the use of paid anonymous witnesses; it is for this reason that they have resorted to this desperate measure.

When a Mapuche is accused arson it is classified in Chile as "terrorist arson", i.e. burning of an uninhabited pine plantation shack, where there is no danger to human life whatsoever, is still classified as a terrorist act. The Anti Terrorism Law is used by landowners to defend their property rather than to genuinely combat acts of terrorism; and as such it is utilised as an instrument to suppress the democratic voice of indigenous people and stop them from claiming back the land which is rightfully theirs.

The protest activities of Mapuche in defence of ancestral territory and human rights is the very same technique used by civil rights movements the world over such as the American civil rights movement, the UK women’s suffrage movement, who used attacks on vacant property as a symbolic gesture to focus attention on the value of human life and civil liberties inequalities over material possessions which should also be reflected accordingly in national legislation. The indigenous Mapuche are no different and as such their harmless direct action when it involves damage to solely material goods, farm machinery, farm sheds and the like is similarly a statement highlighting human value, over capitalist ownership of material goods, analogous with their demand for equal rights, civil liberty and restoration of the ancestral land which rightfully belongs to them as stated in all historic land treaties pertaining to them to date.

A demonstration in support of the Mapuche hunger strikers will take place in front of the Chilean embassy (37-41 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9JA). The nearest underground station is St James’s Park. We invite you and your organisation to join us at the demonstration next Wednesday - October 6, which will be held from 1:00 to 2:00pm.


Dear MIL members and Mapuche supporters,

We regret to announce the cancellation of the demonstration in support of the Mapuche hunger strike.

We have just been informed in the last few hours by the Metropolitan Police that they will not grant us a permit to demonstrate inside the protected area around the Houses of Parliament, which includes the Chilean embassy. Ironically, continuing with the protest now would render participants liable to arrest and detention under the UK's own public order and anti-terror laws.

We have never had an application refused before and so we assumed that permission would be granted. The police have invited us to reapply and we are considering this. We will be in contact to update you as soon as possible.

Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience which may have been caused.

Reynaldo Mariqueo
Mapuche International Link



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