Chilean police clash with Mapuche protesters in Santiago

Hunger Strike Reaches 113 Days

SANTIAGO – Violent clashes erupted between police and hundreds of demonstrators supporting Mapuche prisoners in the Chilean capital, Santiago.

Demonstrators demanded freedom for four hunger-striking members of the Mapuche community who are accused of arson attacks in southern Chile. The Mapuche, Chile’s largest native ethnic group, have been in a fight with the central government for two centuries in an attempt to recover land lost in the 19th century.

The brothers – Benito, Pablo, and Ariel Trangol, and Alfredo Tralcal – are in a delicate state of health and currently imprisoned in the city of Temuco, about 670 kilometers south of Santiago de Chile.

Tensions in Chile as Mapuche hunger strike reaches 111 days

Protesters demand to be judged by common law and not by the anti-terror law, which keeps them in prison for up to two years with no trial and uses declarations of secret witnesses.

The acts of solidarity included the raising of a camp adorned by several canvas on the threshold of the religious temple.

Some Mapuche groups are accused of setting trucks, Catholic and evangelical churches and agricultural machinery on fire, in demand of the return of their ancestral lands.

More than 700,000 indigenous people of this ethnic group are currently living in abject poverty and barely take the 5% of lands inherited from their relatives in the past. The rest of the lands are in the private hands of forestry firms.

The Government Minister and official spokeswoman, Paula Narvaez, explained Tuesday that the Attorney General’s Office said that justice is handled independently and for that reason they must be tried under the anti-terror law.

Even though Benito Trangol decided to stop drinking liquids on Monday, a medical report noted that the Brothers are in a delicate state of health.

The issue generated some demonstrations and signs of support for the hunger strikers, and on Monday at least 30 people were arrested as a result of a protest at the gates of the Cathedral of Concepcion.