Mapuche political prisoners win hunger strike in indigenous struggle in Chile, 2012

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Timing
Time Period:  
13 August
2012
to
25 October
2012
Location and Goals
Country: 
Chile
Location City/State/Province: 
Temuco, Santiago
Location Description: 
Araucanía Region, Southern Chile
Goals: 
To have the charges against them dropped and nullified by the Supreme Court as well as increased autonomy and territorial rights for the Mapuche people.
 

South-central Chile includes a considerable population of the indigenous Mapuche people. The Mapuche resisted conquest by the Spanish settlers for centuries. Mapuche people continue to demand autonomy and land rights.

In December of 2011 the police made a raid on the south-central town of Wente Winkul, seeking suspects for an alleged attempted murder of police officers and General Iván Bezmalinovic on 2 November 2011. Police arrested two Mapuche men, Daniel Levinao Montoya and Paulino Levipán Coyan, and charged them with possession of firearms as well as the attempted murders. The two men declared that they were innocent.

Eight months later, on 13 August 2012, the men were sentenced to over 10 years in prison. The prisoners said the next day that they would fight the verdict up to the Supreme Court if they had to. They, and an increasing number of Mapuche people, believed the men were political prisoners.

On 27 August, the two men, joined by two other Mapuche prisoners (Eric and Rodrigo Montoya) awaiting trial for separate cases, launched a hunger strike to have their convictions overturned and to gain increased autonomy and territorial rights to the Mapuche people.

In three days the Comunidad Autónoma Temucuicu (Autonomous Community Temucuicui) made a public declaration of their solidarity with the hunger strikers.

The campaign grew rapidly. On 2 September the Mapuche organization Meli Wixan Mapu announced a solidarity march for the following day in which sympathizers were invited to march with musical instruments, posters, and fliers to hand out. At another solidarity rally on 20 September, leader Calfurray Trecanao declared that the Mapuche nation was behind the strikers and their demands.

Throughout the duration of the campaign, police repression of peaceful marches and rallies was common and on 25 September the hunger strikers’ spokesperson, Daniel Melinao, along with other demonstrators, was arrested for disturbing the peace. They were released the following day.

On 29 September a representative of the Comisión Ética Contra La Tortura (Ethical Commission Against Torture) visited the strikers in the prison while Mapuche people participated in a mass prayer demonstration in the common areas of the prison. Three days later hundreds of sympathizers marched in Temuco to demonstrate their solidarity with the Presos Políticos Mapuche (Mapuche Political Prisoners) who had completed 37 days of the hunger strike at that point.

On 4 October the courts reviewed the case, their decision to be revealed at the end of the month.

Another mass prayer demonstration was held on 6 October outside of the prison in Temuco where other Mapuche prisoners had initiated their own separate hunger strike and were being held for unrelated charges. The prayer was for all Mapuche Political Prisoners on hunger strike.

On that same day, hundreds marched from the plaza at Collipulli to the prison at Angol, where the hunger strikers were being held, to visit the strikers. Because the prison’s reception area could only hold 40 people at a time, the marchers took turns visiting the prisoners--a process which took hours to complete. Since the initiation of their hunger strike, Levinao, Levipán, and the Montoyas have done almost-weekly updates of their situation and their demands from jail. On this occasion they sent a message thanking all the marchers for their support and calling them to further unify and fight for their territorial rights and liberty to all the Mapuche Political Prisoners.

On 10 October the strikers were moved to the hospital due to their critical conditions. On 15 October, members of the Mapuche group Wente Wikul Mapu called on the public to visit their encampment outside the hospital to educate themselves on the situation.

When talk of force-feeding on the part of the government arose, the strikers warned that they would sew their mouths shut and Amnesty International warned that force-feeding could be a breach of their human rights.

On 18 October the hunger strikers were returned to the prison at Angol. Also on that day, a representative of the Underrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization from the European Parliament sent the Chilean government a letter asking that they find a humane solution to the situation as quickly as possible.

On 24 October, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the 10-year sentences of Levipán and Levinao for the attempted murder of the police officers and the general, on the basis of lack of evidence. The courts did affirm the charge for possession of firearms for Levinao. Levipán was allowed to be freed from prison immediately. On October 25, the four strikers announced the end of their hunger strike.

In that way the initiators of the campaign declared victory for their immediate goal, while the larger struggle continues by Mapuche people for autonomy and land rights.

Research Notes
Sources: 
Seelau, Ryan. "Supreme Court Reverses Two Mapuche Convictions; Hunger Strike Ends After 60 Days." IndigenousNews.org. IndigenousNews.org, 25 Oct. 2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://indigenousnews.org/2012/10/25/supreme-court-reverses-two-mapuche-convictions-hunger-strike-ends-after-60-days/>.

HOGAN, GWYNNE. "Chilean Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Mapuche Hunger Strikers." The Santiago Times. Santiagotimes.cl, 24 Oct. 2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://www.santiagotimes.cl/chile/human-rights-a-law/25318-chilean-supreme-court-rules-in-favor-of-mapuche-hunger-strikers>.

HOGAN, GWYNNE. "Mapuches Rushed to Hospital after 45-day Hunger Strike in Chile." The Santiago Times. Santiagotimes.cl, 11 Oct. 2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://www.santiagotimes.cl/chile/human-rights-a-law/25271>.

"Soychile.cl." Comuneros Condenados De Ercilla Pediran Nulidad Del Juicio En La Corte Suprema. Gestión Regional De Medios, 14 Aug. 2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://www.soychile.cl/Temuco/Policial/2012/08/14/112191/Comuneros-condenados-de-Ercilla-pediran-nulidad-del-juicio-en-la-Corte-Suprema.aspx>.

Medina, Daniel. "Comuneros En Carcel De Angol Deponen Huelga De Hambre Tras 60 Di­as - BioBioChile." BioBioChile. WordPress, 25 Oct. 2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://www.biobiochile.cl/2012/10/25/comuneros-en-carcel-de-angol-deponen-huelga-de-hambre-tras-60-dias.shtml>.

"Diario Electronico Radio.uchile.cl 102.5 Fm." Corte Suprema Anula Condenas Contra Dos Comuneros Mapuche En Huelga De Hambre « Radio Universidad De Chile – Diario Electrónico. Radio.uchile.cl, 24 Oct. 2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://radio.uchile.cl/noticias/176632/>.

Paz Nuñez, María. "Corte Suprema Anula Juicio Contra Mapuches Condenados Por Homicidio Frustrado De Carabinero." LA TERCERA. La Tercera, 24 Oct. 2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://www.latercera.com/noticia/nacional/2012/10/680-489962-9-corte-suprema-anula-juicio-contra-mapuches-condenados-por-homicidio-frustrado-de.shtml>.

Associated Press. "Mapuches Cumplen 40 Dias En Huelga De Hambre En La Araucania." Emol. Empresa El Mercurio S.A.P., 4 Oct. 2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://www.emol.com/noticias/nacional/2012/10/04/563193/mapuche-cumplen-40-dias-en-huelga-de-hambre-en-la-araucania.html>.

Manuexpress. "Informativo Mapuche." Mapuexpress. Mapuexpress, n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://www.mapuexpress.net/?act=news>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Patricia Gutiérrez, 11/11/2012