Chilean President Pinera leading prayer service for trapped Chilean miners
Chilean Circus of Saints and Sinners
By Nina Dean*
29th Aug 2010
Chilean President Pinera leading prayer service for trapped Chilean miners (left) Mapuche political
prisoner chained to his bed (right)
Amidst a well orchestrated Chilean media blackout and after almost 50 days on hunger strike the health of the 32 Mapuche political prisoners incarcerated under anti terrorist law is in serious jeopardy, with two strikers being rushed to hospital in the past week.
Carlos Muñoz Huenuman and Eduardo Painemil Peña two of the Mapuche hunger strikers held in Lebu prison stated at the outset of their protest “With this extreme and fair measure, we extend the resistance carried out by Mapuche political prisoners in different Chilean jails, which seeks to denounce the injustices committed against our people. These injustices are reflected in the violent raids, where the victims are mainly elders and children; in the indiscriminate and set-up use of protected witnesses that include underage children; in the excessive duration of the investigations carried out by the District Attorney’s Office , which only perpetuate pre-emptive custody. Finally, we seek to reject the politico-judicial set-ups, sustained by the application of the Anti-terrorism Law, which seek to jail Mapuche social fighters that confront the extermination war declared against us by the Chilean State.”
As an international Mapuche human rights campaigner I have charted and publicised a catalogue of historic abhorrent abuses applied by the Chilean state to proud and peaceful Mapuche communities and individuals who resist assimilation and territorial domination by the Chilean State for the past decade., in particular that of the experience of the Lonko Calfunao family. In 2005 Chief Calfunao leader of the Juan pailalef community conducted a humanitarian visit to Europe in order to raise awareness within the international arena of the repression she, her community and indeed their nation had experienced as a result of their peaceful defence of ancestral territory. During the European visit Mapuche international link had accompanied Chief Calfunao to the headquarters of Amnesty international in London urgently requesting support due to the ongoing danger to her own and her families lives . Immediately following her return to her home to Chile she was arrested along with the remainder of her family and incarcered in Temuco women’s penitentiary where she remains to this day on a petty civil disobedience charge. Her youngest daughter Relmutray aged 12 was later transported by her family to Europe to seek sanctuary as a political refugee.
During the course of her incarceration Chief Calfunao had committed to hunger strike in 2006 at which time she suffered serious cardiac complications, the Tibetan Dali Lama offered prayers for her safety and wellbeing prior to ending her protest, the chief was on this occasion fortunate to survive. As a result of years of physical and mental abuse by Chilean officials and the physical impacts of her previous hunger strike Chief Calfuano has since suffered symptoms of a stroke with complete paralysis of one side of her body and is rendered incapable of speech, she remains in jail and untreated for this life threatening condition. In May 2010, Chief Calfuano’s sentence was set for review due to having served 4 years of her sentence and as a result of her exemplary behaviour during her incarceration, however the court ruled to deny her this opportunity and thus returned her to the penitentiary indefinitely. The Juan Paillalef community along with the Mapuche nation now have grave concern for her life.
Whilst the son of Chief Calfuano, Waikilaf cadin Calfunao having spent the majority of his adult life being harassed by Chilean police, enduring countless arrests, detentions and torture at the hands of his aggressors is currently detained on remand under anti terrorist charges for due to protesting for his mothers release for a crime which he did not commit. Waikilaf is currently committed to hunger strike in Angol prison, he was transported to hospital last week as a result of the physical effects of starvation.
Waikilaf’s father and brother were each recently released on probation following lengthy sentences on arbitrary charges. The Calfuano family’s’ experience of systematic brutal state repression due to the peaceful defence of their ancestral land is not a unique experience for everyday Mapuche, with hundreds of Mapuche families and communities sharing this same catastrophic experience.
The Chilean policy for control of the Mapuche people as a means of access to their land is tantamount to genocide, such is their ambition to have sole control of it and the valuable natural resources it represents to them and the evolving Chilean free market economy. In a pre-election statement Chilean right wing President Pinera, himself a wealthy businessman vowed, “We shall soon see the second Pacification of Araucania”, referring to a repeat of the original genocidal annexation of Mapuche territory which took place in the 1860’s in Chile.
Whilst the shift in economic trends moves away from investment in production towards investment in territorial resources, intellectual property rights and the like, the indigenous Mapuche like all indigenous peoples of the world today remain at impending and grave danger of annihilation. In the post 9-11 climate unscrupulous governments regularly conveniently classify indigenous democratic descent as a terrorist act in order to achieve their self serving and destructive ambitions. In this climate families such as the Calfunao’s and their countrymen are viewed in Machiavellian terms as expendable casualties when weighed against the survival and expansion of the capitalist state and its economic objectives.
The United Nations and the international human rights community watch on with increasing alarm for the health of the current 32 Mapuche hunger strikers whom, having reached a fragile and most vulnerable state in the absence of any medical intervention, acknowledgement nor dialogue from the Chilean state to bring a swift and lifesaving resolution to their situation, remain at their mercy.
The arrival in Chile this week of United Nations representative from the International Labour Organisation who will meet with Chilean government representatives in order to assess their compliance with ILO convention 169, a legal framework which stipulates that states must respect the rights of indigenous communities within their territorial boundaries with specific emphasis on the legal request for free and informed prior consent in relation to development issues affecting indigenous people within their ancestral territory a requirement which Chile have to date failed to fulfill.
Despite interventions made by the prisoners families and numerous public officials who had visited the prisoners such as left wing Chilean Senators Navarro and Jaime Quintana urging the government to urgently initiate dialogue to avert a tragic yet avoidable loss of life the Chilean state remains deaf to their pleas.
Whilst a leading international human rights representative Esteban Beltrán Director of Spanish Amnesty International this week visited Chile and publicly condemned the criminalisation of Mapuche democratic rights using the application of anti terrorist law; “The two most important human rights issues in Chile, he said, are Mapuche rights and women’s reproductive rights, commenting that “What really strikes me is that after 20 years of democracy, the Chilean government is applying the same antiterrorist laws from the dictatorship,” Beltrán said. “I’m astonished that this antiterrorist law is applied to the Mapuche community. I understand they may have perpetrated an illegal act, but they should be judged fairly.”
Meanwhile in the same week the compassionate and humanitarian response of the state to the recent rescue mission activated to save the lives of a proportionate number of trapped miners in the north of Chile appears to know no bounds with the new President this week staging a public offering of prayers in the presence of global and national media; upon the prayer platform, surrounded by government officials and adorned by a flurry of Chilean national flags amidst a large painting of saint Francis of Assisi the ‘patron saint of travellers’ Pinera announced while grasping a note sent from the miners "Coming from the deepest point in this mine, comes a message from our miners who are telling us that they are alive, that they are all together, and that they are waiting to return to see the light of the sun and embrace their families," . Whilst the concern for those trapped deep underground and the public and official outpouring of emotion for their wellbeing is laudable, the response comes in stark polar contrast to an entire lack of compassion nor concern for the 32 Mapuche hunger strikers within the nations grasp who currently lie in a fatal condition in their prison cells and whilst the effort to reach the miners is carefully chronologically calculated using precision technology to reach them the Mapuche hunger strikers though within easy reach are left to die alone and without governmental or mainstream public empathy nor support. One cannot help but speculate on the long term outcome of the hunger strikers condition and if at such time in the future the miners are reunited into the bosom of their loving families into the security of their homes the Mapuche strikers will still be alive to experience such simple human joys. If the Chilean state solely places value on human life by measuring the individuals willingness to assist economic growth then the Mapuche will remain not only invaluable but also a hindrance to the state’s economic ambitions and as such will remain an highly endangered people.
Mapuche International Link