domingo, 12 de septiembre de 2010

Chilean President Plays Russian Roulette with 34 Indigenous Mapuche Hunger Strikers

Today marks the 64th day of hunger strike for 34 Mapuche political prisoners in Chile, whose life now hangs desperately in the balance, awaiting any hint of response from the Chilean government who will have ultimate responsibility in deciding their fate.

The health of the strikers has rapidly deteriorated, with two emergency admissions to hospital this week, many suffering progressive symptoms of heart failure, decomposition and oedema as they daily drift in and out of consciousness.

The Mapuche protesters all of whom are incarcerated under internationally condemned anti terrorist law as a result of practicing democratic political activism in defence of Mapuche ancestral territory, demand the following: an end to the application of anti terrorist law; militarization of Mapuche territory; indefinite pre-trial detention; use of anonymous witnesses and the trial by military court of individuals accused of civil offenses, freedom for all Mapuche leaders and political prisoners.

In an unexpected act of solidarity with the political prisoners four Chilean MP's whilst visiting the strikers, this week took the radical step of joining the hunger strike. During televised media frenzy the parliamentarians were swiftly and brutally removed from the prison facility by police and prison guards, a number of the delegation yelping in pain due to the violent physical force with which they were ejected. The MP’s travelled to the headquarters of CUT (Central Workers Union) in order to continue the hunger strike. The solidarity strike by MP’s has sparked a wave of similar hunger protests by individuals across Chile.

In answer to MPP’s demands during an extraordinary extended parliamentary session the government have this weekend agreed to pass an emergency bill through the senate, set to amend current anti terrorist legislation by narrowing the scope of its application and also by excluding the practice of simultaneous trial in both military and civil courts. Conversely the bill will also provide additional punishment for civilian offences against police and security forces.

However in a statement by the hunger strikers in response to the government’s recent gesture, they maintain that, “This bill has been part of the current government's agenda for some time, it was officially announced during Piñera’s presidential campaign in 2009, and has today been proclaimed as legitimate and sincere communication; it is by no means a goodwill gesture on their part, but rather an opportunistic manipulation of the facts that seeks to further criminalize our legitimate protests”. As a result the Strikers announced this weekend that they will initiate a dry hunger strike should the government continue to refuse a direct dialogue with them in order to resolve their demands. Whilst their relatives have called for national solidarity and to suspend the official Bicentennial 'celebrations'.

Whilst the government who have as yet refused any direct and meaningful dialogue with the hunger strikers, the court of Angol recently denied an appeal of the original sentence by a large number of strikers held in Angol prison. The strikers who were forced to attend the trial in person despite their fragile state of health witnessed the proceedings seated in wheelchairs due to their frail health condition.

European efforts to avert a tragic loss of life have been in the form of the recent presentation of a draft resolution to the European Parliament by Werken (Mapuche emissary) Gaston Lion, an issue which will be addressed during this week’s session of the EP and via letter’s written to President Piñera from 38 MEP’s concerned at the breach of human rights and imminent fatalities in the absence of Presidential will to initiate meaningful dialogue with MPP’s.

Meanwhile a Mapuche delegation including two members of UK based NGO, Mapuche International Link, will attend the 15th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland in a last minute bid to alert the international human rights community in the presence of the Chilean ambassador to the UN, to the urgent life-threatening crisis currently facing the imprisoned Mapuche protesters in advance of Saturday’s bicentenary ‘festivities’.

With the impending dry hunger strike due to commence in the coming week the pressure to secure a life saving solution in advance of the Chilean Bicentennial ‘celebrations’ on 18th Sept intensifies moment by moment. Time has now manifested into a commodity infinitely rarer than the riches which the Chilean state so vehemently covets which lies beneath the Mapuche land.

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