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Torrents of protests hit the globe in support of the Mapuche indigenous political prisoners in Chile.

The 12th of August saw the first wave of action initiated by the families of the prisoners take place outside Chilean Embassies worldwide, including London and Washington DC. The date fell on the one month anniversary of the start of a liquid hunger strike by the imprisoned Mapuche activists, who are being held under a Pinochet-era law that defines almost all political opposition as terrorism. Sound familiar? The notorious Chilean anti-terrorism law aims to squash discord under a dictatorship.

The Chilean Government has ignored protests from the UN and the Ethical Committee Against Torture over the warped use of this law and continues unhindered to try captives under a law that gives carte blanche to questionable means of prosecution such as anonymous witnesses, indefinite pre-trial detention and double simultaneous trials before both civil and military courts.

Thirty-two Mapuche prisoners are incarcerated in the prisons of Valvidia, Conception, Temuco, Lebu and Angol. They began the hunger strike as a means of drawing national and international attention to the violation of these people by entrenched government and commercial interests. Recent struggles are a part of an ongoing saga that began with colonialism. The Mapuche people have been abused in turn by European colonialists, multinational companies (yes that includes you Benetton), the Chilean Government, industrial farming and the building of hydro-electric dams.

The second wave struck on the 18th of August across Chilean Embassies in Argentina, England, France, Norway and others. Amongst the demonstrators and supporters in London were UK based NGO, Mapuche International Link, the Association of Chilean ex-political prisoners in the UK, Colombian Solidarity Campaign, Latin American Coordination, Memoria Historica, and many independent pro-Mapuche sympathisers.

The peaceful protests taking place in Temuco, Chile, were violently disrupted by police interference. Arrests hit the 56 mark, including that of Catalina Catrileo, sister of Matias Catrileo, a Mapuche youth previously murdered by Chilean police during a peaceful land rights demonstration.

The hunger strike is now entering its fifth week and medical reports indicate the development of serious health conditions. The liquid protest is experiencing serious problems as the prisoners have started exhibiting symptoms akin to heart failure such as visual disturbances, nausea, dizziness, disorientation, stomach cramps and more.They have lost ‘between 8-11kg in weight’. The denial of medical care for the prisoners further adds to the gravity of the situation as it increases the risk to their already deteriorating health.

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