Indigenous community leaders on Monday staged a take-over of Santiago-based radio station Bío-Bío to protest the station’s failure to report on the hunger strike of 32 Mapuche activists. The protesters demanded that Radio Bío-Bío air an interview with a spokesperson for the prisoners, who began their hunger strike on July 12. The take-over occurred one week after internal government documents surfaced alleging links between Mapuche activists, the Chilean Communist Party, and Colombian guerrilla groups.
Mapuche activists have consistently challenged the Chilean government’s purported militarization of the southern region of Araucanía, which is the ancestral homeland of 650,000 Mapuches. The strong police presence in the region, they claim, is exacerbated by what they believe are the exploitative practices of multinational logging and mining companies.
Many of the jailed activists were arrested for illegal land occupations or attacks on the equipment or personnel of multinational companies, both of which are considered acts of terrorism under the Pinochet-era Anti-Terrorism Law, No.19.027. The hunger strike is in direct protest of the law, which protesters say allows the state to hold people for up to two years without charges, restricts defense attorneys’ access to evidence, and use testimony from anonymous witnesses.
Since Chile’s return to democracy in 1990, this law has been applied to Mapuche activists. The Chilean government maintains that the law is not being applied unfairly, and that the acts of the terrorists, regardless of their ethnicity, must be tried to the fullest extent of the law.