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Chile: Mapuche Prisoners End Hunger Strike After 60 Days

Two young men, members of the indigenous Mapuche community from Southern Chile, were sentenced on August 13, 2012, to 541 days of prison for their responsibility in an attack against police officers during a clash on November 2, 2011, in the rural sector of the Ercilla commune.

Nineteen-year-old Paulino Levipán and eighteen-year-old Daniel Levinao started a hunger strike on August 27, 2012, along with Rodrigo Montoya Melinao and Eric Montoya Montoya to protest their detention. The latter were accused of attempted murder of a policeman that was guarding ranch Centenario, in the same Ercilla community, on August 2011. They were still being processed in an oral trial.

Yesterday, October 25, the four mapuche prisoners decided to abandon their protest after the Chilean Supreme Court decided to comply with some of their demands. They are already at the prison's nurse station receiving food.

Mapuche stencil, photo by Flickr user Paul Lowry (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The maximum Chilean court ruled to partially annul the trial that convicted them. In Daniel's case, a new trial was ordered because the first one lacked enough proof to reach a sentence. As for Paulino, the court changed his accusation to injuries based on “evident mistakes in the application of the law”, therefore his sentence changed from 10 years in prison to 3 years in parole.

The current government's stance

President Sebastián Piñera spoke about the hunger strike [es] during a visit to the Ercilla commune this October, echoing the government's long-standing policy towards the clashes with these communities:

¿Vamos a permitir que ese intento de homicidio quede impune? La justicia llegó a un fallo definitivo y por tanto pienso que si ellos cometieron un delito, la huelga de hambre no es legítima ni eficaz”

Are we going to allow this attempted murder to go unpunished? Justice decided a final ruling and therefore I think that if they committed a crime, the hunger strike is not legitimate or effective.

The conflict

The following video, uploaded by YouTube user PipeHenriquezO, summarizes the Mapuche conflict in Chile in 30 seconds. The conflict focuses on claiming the preservation and autonomy of the lands that they have inhabited for centuries and that are now being exploited for their natural resources:

Also, on The Ambivalent Abyss Tumblr blog you can find a photo gallery of the Mapuche movement throughout history.

Netizens have also commented on the various reports about the protests in favor of the Mapuche, the government's reactions, and the diverse television reports that have come out on the issue. Opinions are conflicting.

Journalist and golfer Alejandro Bascur (@AlejandroBascur) [es] was happy after a TV program aired on national television:

@AlejandroBascur: Notable informe especial TVN. Al fin se Muestra el terror q siembran los mapuches en el sur, sin ningún respeto por DDHH #InformeEspecial

@AlejandroBascur: Great special report by TVN (National Television of Chile). They are finally showing the terror that the Mapuche sow in the South, with no respect to human rights #InformeEspecial

Referring to the statements by President Piñera, journalist and blogger [es] Francisco Méndez (@Franmen) [es] pointed out:

@Franmen: El Presidente Piñera podría prestar el mismo respaldo que brinda a policías ,a los estudiantes y a los Mapuche cuando se los estigmatiza

@Franmen: President Piñera could give stigmatized students and Mapuche the same support he offers the police

Furthermore, Mapuche journalist, writer and blogger Pedro Cayuqueo (@pcayuqueo) [es] asserted:

@pcayuqueo: Cuesta hablar del trasfondo del tema mapuche cuando lo que gatilla los debates es la cronica policial. Aun asi, algunos lo intentamos.

@pcayuqueo: It's hard to talk about the background of the Mapuche issue when what triggers debates is police chronicles. Even so, some of us try.

Meanwhile, Mapuche blogger Punngey posted the following thoughts [es] on Tumblr regarding the end of the hunger strike:

HOY, 60 días de ayuno…se acabó el conteo, 60 días de sacrificio por que la verdad saliera a flote, 60 días de lucha de coraje, de orgullo, de ese orgullo que acompaña a cada uno de quienes SOMOS mapuche, aunque hayan algunos por ahí que digan que ya no existimos, esperemos que esta lucha acabe pronto [...] a seguir luchando por que se vayan las forestales y represas de nuestras tierras, por la sanación de nuestra mapu, a seguir recuperando lo que se nos usurpó, y por fin caminar libres por nuestra mapu, que nuestros hijos no sigan creciendo con la represión en sus sueños…y que ellos si caminen por las tierras libres de nuestros abuelos…AMULEPE TAIÑ WEICHAN!!! WEWAIÑ. LA LUCHA CONTINÚA…

TODAY, 60 days of fasting…the counting has ended, 60 days of sacrifice to bring out the truth, a 60-day battle of courage, pride, that pride that accompanies each one of us who ARE Mapuche, although some say that we don't exist anymore. We hope this struggle ends soon [...] Let's continue fighting for forest companies and dams to leave our land, for the healing of our mapu (land), to continue recovering what was taken from us, and to finally walk freely through our mapu, that our children may not continue growing up with repression filling their dreams…and that they may walk through the free lands of our grandparents…AMULEPE TAIÑ WEICHAN!!! WEWAIÑ. THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES…

Mapuche flag by Flickr user Diego Martin (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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