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News > Latin America

Chile: Jailed Mapuche Machi Granted Leave For Renewal Ceremony

  • Cordova's supporters protested to demand permission for him to leave prison for 48 hours in order to renew his Rewe.

    Cordova's supporters protested to demand permission for him to leave prison for 48 hours in order to renew his Rewe. | Photo: EFE

Published 27 July 2018

Machi Celestino Cordova is in serious condition after spending more than 50 days on hunger strike to demand his temporary release from prison.

The Chilean Gendarmerie has granted the Machi Celestino Cordova permission to leave prison for 48 hours in order to attend a healing ceremony in his place of origin and renew his Rewe, as part of a traditional medical treatment.


Chile: Mapuche Machi Celestino Cordova Vows 'Rewe Or Death'

Minister of Justice Hernan Larrain said the Gendarmerie's technical council had decided on the matter, despite having previously rejected the petition, due to new circumstances. The institution will impose certain conditions on Cordova regarding his release.

"This time the technical council has decided to authorize the petition, establishing the conditions in which this can be carried on," said Larrain.

"These conditions correspond to the case's security and the privacy corresponding to an exit of this nature. Celestino Cordova is being informed of this situation and we're waiting for his decision."

Cordova's petition had been rejected multiple times by the Gendarmerie, in charge of taking prison-related decisions, and other government branches, despite the House of Representatives having already approved a petition to let Cordova attend his Rewe.

In one recent development which may have affected the outcome, Jorge Luchsinger Mackay – a relative of the couple whose murder Cordova was convicted of – told government and Mapuche authorities said that his family wouldn't oppose the temporary release. Cordova denies all charges.

"We, as a family, talked it through. It's a difficult situation because he's a sentenced prisoner... however, this is a gesture towards him and a small contribution for peace. We don't oppose permission for Machi Celestino Cordova to go out and renew his Rewe," Luchsinger said.

Celestino Cordova Transito, a Mapuche Machi, at a hearing in the Luchsinger Mackay case in Temucho, Chile, in 2013. Photo | EFE

Jorge Luchsinger is a son of the married, land-owning couple who died in a house fire in 2013. Prosecutors blamed a group of Mapuches, accusing them of terrorism and murder, and sentenced Cordova and two other young men to prison.

Other Mapuche leaders have also been convicted, but were later released due to lack of evidence and irregularities in the case.

Larrain said Luchsinger's declaration and changes in Cordova's petition were taken into account in the Gendarmerie's decision. However, he made clear the decision doesn't mean they are recognizing his rights, but simply "granting a benefit" that will set no future legal predecent.

The exact date on which Cordova will be released in order to visit his Rewe is not yet known, but Larrain said it would be "as soon as possible."

Cordova has been on hunger strike since May 31 and stopped drinking liquids on July 23. He is currently hospitalized in the Nueva Imperial intercultural hospital in Temuco.

The government hopes that news of his release will encourage Cordova to suspend his hunger strike, which has drawn attention from international media.

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