Mapuches rushed to hospital after 45-day hunger strike in Chile

By Gwynne Hogan, Santiago Times, Thursday, 11 October 2012

Four Mapuche youth on hunger strike.

Amnesty International warns force feeding Mapuche political prisoners would be breach of human rights.

After being rushed to a hospital Wednesday night, the fate of four indigenous hunger strikers now hangs on a decision by the Court of Appeals on whether authorities will be allowed to force feed them. At the time of publication, the protesters were in critical condition in a hospital in Concepción, 310 miles south of Santiago.

The detainees had been refusing to eat in order to draw attention to demands of the indigenous Mapuche population for increased autonomy and territorial rights. Luis Melinao, spokesperson for the Wente Winkul tribe to which the protesters belong, said their situation was “delicate.”“They have been visited by doctors sympathetic to our cause,” Melinao told the press. “They can’t stand up and can’t even sit up for very long. They’ve lost a lot of weight.”

Each has lost between 19 and 26 pounds, the strikers told Mapuche news source Mapuexpress on Tuesday.

“They prefer to die in dignity before kneeling down and surrendering to the state,” Melinao told Radio Bio Bio.

Paulino Levipan (22), Daniel Levinao (19), Rodrigo Montoya (23) and Eric Montoya (20) of Mapuche community Wente Winkul in Angol have gone 45 days without food as of Thursday.

The protesters were imprisoned at different points in 2012 following a series of police raids on the Wente Winkul community, Luis Montoya, a spokesperson for the strikers, told The Santiago Times.

Levipan and Levinao were convicted in August for attempted murder of a police officer, and possession of unregistered weapons. Rodrigo and Eric Montoya are still awaiting trial, also for attempted murder of a police official.

The police raids, such as the ones that led to the incarceration of the four protesters, have become a common response to the actions of Mapuche dissidents, who often occupy or vandalize private property that they consider to be their ancestral land. The protocol on hunger strikes, however, can be a much fuzzier legal matter.

Last week, police officials submitted a request to the local Court of Appeals in the nearby city of Temuco for the right to force feed the strikers. Amnesty International warned that deciding to force feed the protesters would constitute a grave breach of human rights.

“Prisoners in a hunger strike, just like any prisoner, have the right to medical care and the right to refuse it,” Ana Piquer, executive director of Amnesty International Chile, said in a statement. “Force feeding hunger strikers could be considered a cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.”

At the time of publication, the Court of Appeals had yet to render its verdict on the four protesters.

“During  our hunger strike, we have manifested against the Chilean nation-state, against the unjust and repressive way it has treated our community and the long history of theft and usurpation of our territory,” the four published on MapuExpress on Tuesday. “Because we were born Mapuche, persecution, incarceration or death with not stop our fight for liberty and territory of our Mapuche community and nation.”

Update: On Friday three of the four hunger strikers agreed to the intake of liquids, but are continuing their hunger strike. Paulino Levipan is still adhering to the radical dry hunger strike, according to local news sources.

Update: The Court of Appeals of Temuco ruled that the prison guards were authorized to force feed the four protesters Friday, as the prison guard service “has the legal obligation to ensure the care of prisoners.”

More Info from Women’s Coordinating Committee for a Free Wallmapu:

Posted on October 15, 2012, in Defending Territory and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Lots of English articles about the Mapuche can be found on my blog:
    Please, feel free to read and share

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