Life or Death: That is the situation of the eight Mapuche political prisoners in Angol prison, in the Chilean region of Araucanía, who have now been on hunger strike for 75 days to demand that the government comply with the human rights treaties signed by Chile in 2008 and adapt their judicial and prison protocols to the cultural, economic, and social reality of the Mapuche, as required by ILO Convention 169.
Rodrigo Kuripán, spokesperson for the hunger strikers, has emphasised that the demand is for compliance with art. 8, 9, and especially 10 of the Convention, which concern the treatment of indigenous people by the criminal justice system.
Their condition is extremely delicate according to their physician, Luis Umaña, who emphasised that the situation of the hunger strikers is 'extremely critical' and that the risk of death is imminent.
As a result of these 75 days of hunger strike, they have experienced various symptoms related to failures of the immune system, neurological issues, loss of consciousness, generalised muscle pain, vomiting blood, and severe malnutrition.
The latter issue is made clear by the information provided by Dr Umaña, who has stated in a report that they have lost as much as 29 % of their weight. Moreover, at his last visit on Monday, 13 June, he found that Víctor Llanquileo, Freddy Marileo, Reinaldo Penchulef, and Antu Llanca will be at risk of dying by next week.
Angol prisoner support networks have said that 'thus far, we have not received any response either to the letters we have sent nor to the political statements and the appeals made to the Minister of Justice in the Senate Human Rights Commission. The government has not shown any willingness to reach an understanding with the hunger strikers.'
This, they add, 'shows the political irresponsibility of the government of Sebastián Piñera, which shows no interest in establishing a dialogue to resolve this life-threatening hunger strike. The next visit of Dr Luis Umaña will be Monday, 2 July, a critical day for the eight hunger strikers because their lives will then be at risk due to their malnourished condition, as announced by Umaña earlier this week.'
For his part, Machi (spiritual authority) Celestino Córdova, incarcerated in Temuco prison, was urgently transferred on the 15th of this month to the intercultural hospital in Nueva Imperial due to his critical condition.
Córdova's condition is severe, not only due to the two and a half months he has spent without eating, but also due to the aftereffects of his four previous hunger strikes, all of which sought to secure greater dignity for Mapuche community members who are incarcerated for their active participation in territorial recovery activities.
Spokesperson Giovanna Tabilo emphasised the urgency of concrete dialogue from the government. 'The government needs to give us a chance to speak and explain that the Machi is one of our spiritual authorities and that he can't be allowed to die, because if he does, they will have to accept the costs of the death of a Mapuche spiritual leader and the peñis (brother, friend, or comrade) in Angol. The government haven't approached either of the parties. What are they waiting for? Does one of them need to die first?'.
Their health problems range from immune system decompensation related to long periods of starvation, to neurological problems, generalised muscle pain, and inability to stand up. It should be noted that Celestina Córdova is no longer able to walk due to this fifth hunger strike, and must use a wheelchair. On top of this, he has experienced extreme weight loss in these 74 days of hunger strike, going from 92 to 53 kg.
Moreover, Celestino Córdova has experienced constant cardiac abnormalities, specifically bradycardia (abnormally low heart rate), as determined by the Human Rights Department of the Temuco Medical Society (Colegio Médico de Temuco), who informed the Machi's spokespersons of his critical condition and the need to carry out cardiac investigations in a report.
More information about Mapuche struggle (in Spanish) here