Representatives of the Mapuche comminity in Santiago, chile are demanding the release of four prisoners jailed in Angol Chilean Araucania who have been on a hungar strike for weeks. Nibaldo Huenuman, a Mapauce leader said,
The hunger strike began on August 31 to protest the Chilean government's repression of the country's largest indigenous group. The hunger strikers are protesting a lengthy prison sentence that two of the prisoners were given which they call, "discriminatory, racist and political."
Prensa Latina reports:
In addition to demanding the annulment of the sentences for Levipán and Levinao, the hunger strikers called for adherence by the Chilean government to International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 169, which protects the rights of indigenous peoples; an end to the use of protected witnesses in Mapuche cases; an end to raids on Mapuche communities; and the release of all political prisoners and the return of indigenous lands to the communities.
Mapuche activists charge that that the government uses excessive force and unjust applications of criminal law to repress their actions, with which they seek the return of ancestral lands now being exploited by timber companies and other businesses.
Just yesterday the Chilean Supreme Court ordered an investigation into charges that police wounded three children and an adolescent when they assaulted Mapuche protesters "sitting in" at a hospital in the south of Chile. At the time of the attack UNICEF issued a statement condemning the police action.
The Supreme Court decision was met with opposition from Mapuche leaders and human rights organization Observatorio Cuidadano who called the ruling a “setback” in indigenous relations with the state.
“The resolution ignores the existence of Ngen Mapu Kintuante when it says the land does not qualify as indigenous,” Mapuche Chief Juana Kuante said. “It upholds the law of private property without recognizing that our communities have traditionally used this ceremonial space.”
Kuante said the ruling does not respect Article 13 of the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Convention 169, which states that governments should respect the “special importance for the cultures and spiritual values of the peoples concerned of their relationship with the lands or territories.”
The indigenous Mapuche tribe of south-central Chile has been actively seeking greater recognition of rights and the recovery of sacred lands since the 1990s following the return of democracy to the country.
Observatorio Cuidadano representatives argue the decision contradicts previous court rulings in favor of indigenous tribes in Chile and internationally. In the 2009 case of Francisca Machi Linconao Rahue, the Court of Appeals of Temuco in southern Chile prohibited a nearby forestry company from cutting down trees and shrubs within a 400-yard radius of sacred Mapuche springs. Another similar case was seen in 2008, when the Court of Appeals of Iquique in northern Chile granted the indigenous Aymara community of Chusmiza Usmagama access to sacred springs that were contested by the Chusmiza Mineral Water company.
The following is from Intercontinental Cry.