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News > Latin America

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

  • Machi Celestino Cordova will start a new phase in his hunger strike despite serious health issues.

    Machi Celestino Cordova will start a new phase in his hunger strike despite serious health issues. | Photo: Radio Kurruf

Published 19 July 2018

The Machi, who is on the 49th day of his second hunger strike, was taken to hospital on Thursday and has vowed to stop drinking liquids.

Chilean Mapuche Machi Celestino Cordova, on the 49th day of his second hunger strike, has announced he will stop drinking liquids and asked to die in dignity after the government failed to respect his rights to health and spirituality, as the Mapuche community understands them.


Chile: Mapuches Begin Hunger Strike To Demand Release of Leader Celestino Cordova

Despite refusing to be transferred to any "Western medicine hospital," Cordova was taken on Thursday to the Intercultural Hospital at Nueva Imperial, in Araucania, because of his rapidly deteriorating health.

He was due to begin the newest phase of his hunger strike on Monday, but it's now unclear if he will be able continue.

Cordova restarted his hunger strike in June to demand his temporary release, but authorities have denied his requests. He suspended his first strike after 102 days, suffering serious health issues.

Machi Victor Camilla, a Mapuche health specialist who works at the Imperial hospital, ordered a four-phase medical treatment for Cordova in October 2017, but the government has failed to comply with it. The first three phases of the treatment 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.

"We stress that the Interior Minister and the President of the Republic Sebastian Piñera are directly responsible as their government, with no political will at all, has showed no respect for the distinctive features of native peoples nor their traditional, spiritual authorities," says a press release signed by the network in support of Cordova, relatives and Mapuche authorities.

The case has sparked controversy regarding the respect of self-determination of Indigenous peoples both in Chile and the wider world, as the Machi Cordova has demanded a 48-hour leave to visit his Rewe as part of his traditional belief system.

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 their 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.

The press release implies that the government is responsible for anything that happens to Cordova, who remains in hospital.


Chile: Mapuche Call For Machi Cordova's 48-Hour Prison Release

Cordova first suspended his strike at the request of the governor of Cautin, who said dialogue would be suspended for as long as the hunger strike continued.

"Unfortunately, the null answer from the government represents a blatant hoax to the Machi and all of our Mapuche Nation people and the conscious Chilean people," says the press release.

The network in support of Cordova is calling for two days of protest, on July 22 and 23, wherever possible: "We call for support of the honorable resistance of Machi Celestino Cordova and to participate in the defense of spirituality, land, nature and its balance, the protection of sacred places. Every gesture is important and contributes. It's time to act, to use the imagination, in freedom of action from every territory."

Cordova was sentenced for the death of businessman Werner Luchsinger and his wife, Vivianne Mackay, in a 2013 fire at their home in Vicuña, in the Araucania region.

During the trial, prosecutors said "hooded men" entered the couple's property, spreading pamphlets on the death anniversary of a young Mapuche activist who was shot in the back by police, close to where Luchsinger and MacKay lived.

According to the record, Luchsinger fired a gunshot at one of the trespassers and the men set fire to his home, killing the couple inside. Cordova was arrested that night covered in mud and with a gun wound to his hand. He denies any wrongdoing.

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