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News > Latin America

Mapuche Leader Celestino Cordova Suspends Hunger Strike

  • A Mapuche flag seen in an unauthorized protest in support of the indigenous struggle in Santiago de Chile, September 26, 2017.

    A Mapuche flag seen in an unauthorized protest in support of the indigenous struggle in Santiago de Chile, September 26, 2017. | Photo: EFE

Published 25 April 2018

The government said it wouldn't negotiate under pressure and for the Mapuche, life comes before anything.

Celestino Cordova, a Mapuche Machi - spiritual and community authority - imprisoned in Chile, has suspended his 102-day hunger strike. The move comes after Cordova was hospitalized last week and the government refused to consider any of his requests.


Imprisoned Mapuche Leader Denied Permission to Attend Ceremony

“For us the Mapuche authorities, the machi, lonko werken, the life of the people has a deep value for our culture and projection of our life, sustained in the two dimensions of our Mapuche worldview, the worldly and the spiritual,” a release issued by the Cordova's family and a network of organization supporting his case said. 

Both Cordova family and the organizations supporting him asked that he suspend the hunger strike, as his health was rapidly deteriorating. Despite his status, the government rejected any dialogue initiative arguing they wouldn’t negotiate under pressure.

“Suspending the strike is giving in, but not being defeated. We now demand the government to comply with its words that 'there's no dialogue under pressure,” says the press release.

Cordova has requested permission to leave prison for 48-Hours to attend a ceremony in his place of origin and renew his Rewe as part of traditional medical treatment, but both Michelle Bachelet's and Sebastian Pinera's government have refused his request.

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.

“This act of negation and violation of freedom of the “Mapuche Feyentun” cult by the Chilean government and all its institutions shows that the highest Chilean authorities act without any human sensitivity and completely ignoring Mapuche spirituality, despite the Chilean State has remained more than 200 years in our territory, trying to take over it while it's still inhabited by the Mapuche people they haven't been able to exterminate with their genocide acts,” says the press release.

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

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

During the 2013 trial prosecutors say that "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.

The family and network supporting Cordova called on religious, medical and political authorities, human rights organizations to take immediate action to improve his health. They also warned the Chilean government about its absolute responsibility for his life.

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