A press report claims that the Chilean government has been cornered by the Chilean indigenous Mapuche hunger strike.
Chilean President Sebastián Piñera is in the United States where he addressed the U.N. General Assembly on human rights on Thursday, but he has not offered a solution to the strike that the prisoners will accept.
It could also have an impact on Chile’s image abroad. Piñera is currently campaigning for Chile to be re-elected to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Human rights groups from around the world are asking Chile’s government to resolve the hunger strike before any of the strikers die.
The prisoners are demanding the right to a fair trial. They were all arrested under anti-terrorism laws and a military justice code that subject them to prolonged detention, double jeopardy, and the use of anonymous witnesses against them in court. They have said they will not end the strike until they are allowed direct dialogue with the government.
Manuel Chocori, a Mapuche spokesperson, said that the anti-terrorism laws “continue to be discriminatory” and that they do not follow the U.N. International Labour Organization Convention 169, which Chile signed in 2008. “The government is showing little respect for international agreements,” he said.
More than 100 Mapuche have been arrested as terrorists and are held in jails in southern Chile. Their crimes range from armed assault to arson, carried out in a campaign to reclaim ancestral lands that were sold by the government without the Mapuche’s consent.
In addition to protesting the anti-terrorism laws, the hunger strike is also against the militarization of the Araucanía Region (IX), where most Mapuche live, and the police’s use of excessive force against the Mapuche people.