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News > Latin America

Imprisoned Mapuche Leader Denied Permission to Attend Ceremony

  • With signs reading

    With signs reading "we're not terrorists" and "biased trial" Mapuches protest outside the court at the moments of Celestino's sentence. January 11, 2013. | Photo: EFE

Published 12 April 2018

The Machi Celestino Cordova was sentenced to 18 years for the murder of two landlords in the Araucania prison.

Machi Celestino Cordova, whose supporters claim was unjustly imprisoned by the Chilean state, has been on hunger starike for nearly 90 days to demand permission for attending a ceremony in his community.


Jailed Mapuche Leader Given House Arrest Ahead of Pope Visit

Just as Cordova was completing 87 days on hunger strike, the Court of Appeals of Temuco Tuesday rejected his petition to leave the Temuco's penintentiary for 48 hours in order to renovate his Rewe, a ceremony all Machis must do.

“Condeming a Machi to be away from his Rewe is condemning him to a slow death. It's a death sentence, that's how we understand why he took such a drastic decision, because us as family and friends have knocked on many doors to solve the situation, but the state, with Chile's gendarmery, has no will to solve it,” says a statement from Cordoba's Support Network.

Every Machi, the main spiritual, health, and political authority of the Mapuche communities, has to renovate the Rewe along with the community in order to renovate 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.

Hundreds of people protested the court's decision in Temuco, and a group of Mapuches celebrated an ayekan ceremony in front of the Concepcion Cathedral to give strenght to Machi Cordova.

Machi Celestino Cordova is one of the three Mapuches arrested under the anti-terrorist law for the murder of Werner Luchsinger and his wife Vivianne MacKay.

“We're making clear that his health is in critical condition... [but] this hunger strike won't be lifted until he gets a 48-hour permission to renovate his Rewe and do the Machitun ceremony he needs. We hold the Chilean State and its institution responsible of any health or spiritual problem of our ancestral authority,” said a group of Mapuche of Concepcion.

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 hasn't eaten for 80 days, and at this point that's an imminent risk to his life,” said his doctor, Nelson Reyes, “we warned the authorities in a report about the need to find solutions because we're facing a very advanced damage. We're talking about a heart problem and now a general problem."

But Chilean authorites haven't listened to Cordova's petition, nor to pleas by those who are currently camping outside the penitentiary in protest.

Machi Cordova 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 have been sentenced for the same crime, like Machi Francisca Linconao, but freed due to lack of evidence.

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