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In Chile, Plunder and Perverse Laws against the Indigenous Population

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"While the nation and its governments do not have the political will to resolve our historic demands, which are based in territory and autonomy, it will be difficult to have peace.  If the government continues to obstinately militarize certain territorial spaces, there will be no real possibilities to seek some kind of understanding," declares Ramon Llanquileo Pilquiman from the southern Chilean prison in Angol.  He is one of the two Mapuche political prisoners on  hunger strike since November 14.

Llanquileo and Hector Llaitul, both leaders of the Coordinadora Arauco Malleco (CAM), demand a reconsideration of their legal situation after being convicted for attempted murder. This is the third hunger strike they have carried out since their arrests in 2009. During the previous strikes, they lasted close to 90 days without nourishment.

The "Mapuche problem," warns an appeal circulated in solidarity with their cause and with the activists on the hunger strike, "is not simply a criminal or legal issue; it is a political issue that involves recognizing that the Mapuche are enlisted in a cause that stems from Chile's abusive occupation of their territory south of the Bio-Bio"

Llaitul and Llanquileo, emphasizes the manifesto, "cannot be treated like delinquents and much less like terrorists." Keeping them in that condition, it continues, "makes it even more difficult to move forward with the current dialogue between the Chilean nation and the Mapuche people."

The Coordinadora Arauco Malleco, criminalized and persecuted since its beginnings, is an organization that demands the autonomy of Mapuche communities and the recovery of seized lands, reasons for which they have been categorized as "terrorists." The CAM, states Wikipedia, "is a nationalist Mapuche organization of a terrorist character." No more, no less.

But it is neither terrorist nor criminal. The CAM is part of the autonomous Mapuche movement that struggles for the reconstruction of a people that has been historically dispossessed, plundered, and destroyed. For over a decade, its struggle has expanded and not only includes the recovery of land usurped by the Chilean state and transnational corporations; but also struggles for the vindication of the best elements of a culture that has been vanishing along with the land: language, ancestral organizations, traditions, human relations. In sum, being Mapuche.

The CAM "headed a cycle of recovery of ancestral lands from 1998 to the present, with demands for territory and autonomy in order to reconstruct and defend their rights as native people. The state's response has been an aggressive criminalization and persecution of the Mapuche movement, in which close to 250 activists have been prosecuted, many of them members of CAM," warns the call to solidarity.

There has been an attempt to prosecute both Ramon Llanquileo Pilquiman and Hector Llaitul twice, they were acquitted in a military tribunal, and convicted in a civilian court, strangely enough with the same witnesses and evidence.

"We find this violation of some of the most basic legal principles alarming. Principles such as non bis in idem, in which a person cannot be tried for the same crime twice, and the use of secret witnesses as has happened in this case, breaching legal guarantees. We are extremely worried over the violation of basic human rights, considering that the state's response to indigenous demands for land, territory and autonomy cannot be the criminalization of social protest," indicates a global initiative of intellectuals in their defense.

Currently, the specific and urgent demands are: a rejection of double jeopardy, prison benefits for Ramon Llanquileo (who can access these benefits after serving half of his sentence); and the recognition of time served on remand (close to 5 years as a result of the anti-terrorism law) as part of the sentence already reduced.

Guaranteeing due process of the detainees, revising the legal irregularities in their trial, guaranteeing dignified prison conditions and bringing an end to their unjust prosecution, is the demand that traverses the continent, along with the call to "the immediate and unconditional release of Hector Llaitul and Ramon Llanquileo as a way to end the hunger strike; the creation of a dialogue between the Chilean state and legitimate representatives of the Mapuche people; the defining of a common agenda; the communities' recovery of the territories now in the hands of forestry companies and the recognition of the 1825 Treaty of Trapihue, currently valid and not respected by the Chilean state."

Originally published by the author in Ojarasca, a supplement of La Jornada on January 12, 2013.



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Gloria Munoz Ramirez worked for the Mexican newspaper Punto, for the German news agency DPA, for the U.S. newspaper La Opinion and for the Mexican daily La Jornada. She has lived and worked in Chiapas for many years. She is the author of The Fire and the Word: A History of the Zapatista Movement ( El fuego y la palabra: Una Historia (more...)
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