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News > Latin America

Mapuche Leader Hospitalized After 115 Days on Hunger Strike

  • A Mapuche activist attends a protest in Santiago. The signs read:

    A Mapuche activist attends a protest in Santiago. The signs read:" I am Mapuche, not terrorist" and "No more violence against Mapuche". | Photo: Reuters

Published 28 September 2017

"Don't let them die," asked the brother of one of the Mapuche Indigenous leaders demanding justice.

A Mapuche leader who has been on a hunger strike to demand justice for Indigenous people arrested in Chile has been taken to a hospital after signs of internal bleeding.

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Chief Alfredo Tralcal, also known as "Lonco" among the Mapuche, was transferred to Temuco Hospital south of the country after suffering a gastric hemorrhage.

Four other Mapuche community members have also been on hunger strike, as they have been imprisoned for a year and four months but haven't been found guilty or tried.

Tralcal and his three brothers, Benito, Ariel and Pablo, are accused of leading an arson attack and burning an evangelical church in 2016 in the town of Padre de Las Casas. They claim they are innocent.

"This is the result of the prolonged hunger strike, we directly call President Bachelet to make a statement regarding the strike and if the outcome is fatal for one of the strikers, it will be her responsibility," Cristian Tralcal, his son, told 24 Horas.

Tralcal, 46, has the most severe damage to his health, including hypertension, gastric ulcer, chronic erosive gastritis, depression and having lost more than 20 kilograms of weight, according to medical experts.

They warned that the strikers were "at high risk" of grave consequences in their neurological, cardiological, kidney and digestive systems. Benito Trangol has been the only one to begin a "dry strike," meaning he won't drink any water.

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They are being held under an anti-terrorism bill passed during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, which establishes harsher penalties and that has been applied to the Mapuches for their ancestral struggle in the recovery of their lands.

Nevertheless, Interior Minister Mario Fernandez announced today that his ministry will ask the court to modify the preventive prison imposed on the four Mapuche activists, and to find an alternative measure “that would preserve the physical integrity of the prisoners in a better way,” he said in a statement.

He added that the measure meant to “create the conditions” so the activists would “put an end to the hunger strike,” but that he could not guarantee what the court would decide.

He also announced that the government will submit to Congress the reform of the anti-terrorism bill and the criminal code "with the due emergency" but without questioning the bill in the case that involves the activists.

Chile's largest native ethnic group continues to struggle with the government as it tries to regain land lost during Chile's 19th Century expansion southward into the Mapuche-held territory.

"Don't let them die," Robinson Trangol, the fourth Trangol brother said. "We want a fair trial, nothing more than that, a reclassification of the law, we ask for that as a family."

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