Mapuche Political Prisoners Face Their Deaths


Translated by Gwendolyn Ledger

It is so hard to explain the degree of insensitivity demonstrated by the current Chilean government, formed by many victims of state terrorism during the Pinochet dictatorship, as it is to describe the indifference and racism showed by the Chilean media that prefers to report the firing of two trucks belonging to a forest company rather than the case of a hunger strike in Temuco that today holds its 58th day, in which its four members, all mapuches, literally face their deaths.

Four prisoners, Juan and Jaime Marileo, Juan Carlos Huenulao and activist Patricio Troncoso, are officially “terrorists” and were condemmed to more than ten years of prison because of the fire in a farm that belongs to multimillionaire Eleodoro Matte, one of the few Chileans to appear in the Forbes and Fortune rankings, in a trial so full with irregularities that socialist senator Alejandro Navarro wonders : “who knows in Chile of prisoners whose trials have been declared annulled by two organisms from the United nations?“. In fact, the very UN relator, Mexican Rodolfo Stavenhagen, has qualified the process as an aberration.

In a previous trial, labeled as a simple fire by a local judge of the zone, about 500 miles south of the capital of Chile, was reversed by the supreme court, under strong pressures from the government and land-owners lobbysts, that labeled the burnings as a terrorist act, which implied a summary trial with hidden witnesses, that ended with convictions of more than ten years to those who, in every step of the process, declared themselves not guilty.

The trial, a legal aberration in which nobody, except the mapuche organizations and human right defenders seem to have noticed, is based on the “anti terrorist law” passed by Pinochet, a regulation that surely has affected some of the current members of the government.

Chilean society feels a strong sympathy for the mapuche demands that, at least as shown in every poll, they widely support. This is due to the fact that most Chileans feel they are a mixture between Spanish and Mapuche, although there is also some racism in Chilean people who always make adistinction between a Chilean and an “Indian”, a kind of schizophrenia inherited from the educational system, that teaches that the Chilean military occupation in the late XIX century was, in fact, a “pacification” and, on the other hand, the press, that labels as “terrorists” those Mapuches who dare to ask for their usurped lands.

But the Mapuche drama and their struggle shouldn’t be a concern to those who are worried about their neighbors: it should matter to all those who concern only for themselves and their families in the same region where, three summer seasons ago, faced a profound drought. One of the consequences of the Chilean silvicultural / forestry development and a pillar for the so-called /economic miracle/ is that foreign species like pines and eucaliptus consume up to 90 liters of water per day. In fact, mapuches are well aware that their struggle is not only for land, it is also for water, and today is for their lives.

* Periodista chileno, robertomanriquez@hotmail.com

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