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News > Latin America

Mapuche Hunger Striker Admitted to Hospital, Chile Gov't Still Rejects Dialogue

  • Machi Celestino Cordova's life at risk after more than 100 days of hunger strike.

    Machi Celestino Cordova's life at risk after more than 100 days of hunger strike. | Photo: Twitter

Published 24 April 2018

Machi Celestino Cordova is requesting permission to leave prison for two days and attend a healing ceremony.

Celestino Cordova, a Mapuche Machi -ancestral authority- imprisoned in Chile, has been hospitalized after 102 days of hunger strike as the government refuses to consider any of his demands.


Imprisoned Mapuche Leader Denied Permission to Attend Ceremony

The Machi Cordova is demanding a 48-hour permission to leave prison in order to attend a ceremony in his place of origin and renew his Rewe as part of a traditional medical treatment, but both Michelle Bachelet's and Sebastian Piñera's government have refused his request.

A commission working in support of the Machi issued a dialogue ultimatum to the local Cautin government Monday, but authorities didn't give in. The rejection sparked protests among Mapuches and mestizos alike in several cities of the country.

In Santiago, the capital city, Mapuche communities protested in front of the La Moneda Presidential Palace while others blocked roads in the city of Concepcion. In Puerto Montt, a city in southern Chile, about 70 members of Mapuche communities took over the Catholic cathedral with a ceremony.

The spokespeople of the commission called for people to reunite outside the Intercultural Hospital of Nueva Imperial, in the Cautin province of Araucania, Tuesday to hold a Trawun, a traditional assembly to decide on future actions.

“There's is still no answer from the government regarding our brother Machi Celestino's petition. Today we're at the intercultural hospital and there's still people coming from other territories and countries, all worried about the situation of the Machi and giving him energy... we're restricting the visits now because the Machi is tired, but our brothers and sisters have understood that,” said Gabriela Kalfucoi, one of the spokeswomen of the commission in support of Cordova, during Sunday's Fvta Trawun (great assembly) outside of the hospital.

The Machi Victor Camilla, a Mapuche health specialist who works at the Imperial hospital, ordered a four phase medical treatment for the  Cordova in October 2017, but the government has failed to comply with it. Three of them were carried out in the same hospital, but the last one, the renewal of his energy at his community's Rewe, has been blocked by the government.

“The authorities comply with western doctors with no problem at all, but this is about a medical prescription from a specialist in Mapuche health that hasn't been recognized,” said Marcos Rabanal, a lawyer at the National Human Rights Institute (INDH) in Temuco. “This specialist in Mapuche health is no invention of the INDH, but it's recognized by the Chilean health ministry.”

Cordova's health has been rapidly deteriorating since the start of the hunger strike. He recently fainted due to fatigue and remained unconsciouss for three hours. Doctors have warned about the risk of a heart attack, but authorities are still neglecting his petition.

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The Regional Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (ACNUDH) asked the Chilean government to act according to its guarantor role and international human rights standards.

“The ACNUDH encourages every involved party to keep their commitment to urgently find a solution, through a good will dialogue, in order to guarantee the right to life belonging to every person, without discrimination,” says the statement. It was recently announced that the Bishop of Temuco, Hector Vargas, will mediate the conflict.

Every Machi, the main spiritual, health, and political authority of the Mapuche communities, has to renew the Rewe along with the community in order to renew its own energy. A Rewe is a sort of spiritual pole at Mapuche communities, the center of their spiritual activities that accomplishes a fundamental role in their society.

Cordova started his hunger strike on Jan.13, demanding “freedom to express our own spiritual and ceremonial beliefs inside and outside the country's prisons,” rights that are guaranteed by ILO's Convention 169, to which Chile suscribes.

He is the only person imprisoned for death of businessman Werner Luchsinger and his wife Vivianne Mackay which occurred in 2013 in a fire in their home at Vicun, in the Araucania region. Several other Machis and community leaders had been charged over the same crime, like Machi Francisca Linconao, but freed due to lack of evidence.

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