Chilean lawmakers join indigenous hunger strike

Reuters reports that four Chilean opposition lawmakers have joined a hunger strike by indigenous Mapuche prison inmates protesting “terror” charges, and have increased pressure on the government to talk to the prisoners.

An anti-terror law enacted during Chile’s 1973-1990 military dictatorship allows state prosecutors to define as terrorism as a variety of acts which bring harsh sentences.

The leftist lawmakers are members of a human rights commission in the lower house of Chile’s Congress. They have demanded that President Sebastian Pinera’s conservative government begin talks with 34 inmates to end a two-month fast.

Pinera proposed legislation that aims to forbid civilians and minors from being tried in military courts, and to reduce sentences under the anti-terror statutes. But his government has refrained from direct talks with prisoners.

The Mapuche strikers want their charges under the anti-terror law dropped and called for even deeper reforms to the law, which has been subject to broad interpretation.

Clashes between Mapuche villagers and the police have become increasingly violent in recent years with some indigenous people setting fire to crops, trucks and forestry machinery in their battle to reclaim ancestral lands.

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