Mapuche Chief Juana Calfunao Visits Europe Amidst Renewed Mapuche Political Prisoners Hunger Strike. (By Nina Dean* - 21st March 2010-jk) Chief Juana Rosa Calfunao Paillalef has suffered a lifetime of oppression and persecution at the hands of the Chilean State thus indelibly impacting each and every aspect of her life and shaping her as a formidable defender of her family her, community and her Nation; as a small child she observed her mother beaten, tortured and incarcerated by Chilean carabineros (police) as a result of her defence of the Juan Pailalef community in her role as presiding Chief and leader.
As an adult her daughter Chief Juana Calfunao the current hereditary leader of her community has in turn become the subsequent generational target of this historic and strategic persecution instigated in order to break the Mapuche leader and to lay claim to the land upon which she and her family live.
Chief Calfunao will make a two month visit to Europe beginning in March 2011 when she will attend the first conference of the European Parliament in Brussels on the Mapuche human rights crisis on 24th March. The Lonko will proceed to hold meetings with a number of high level European government figures, in order to highlight the ongoing historic violations and persecution by successive Chilean governments against her Mapuche compatriots. Many Mapuche are currently held in arbitrary detention and four are currently on hunger strike as a result of the criminalisation of their right to democratic protest against the illicit intrusion by national and multinational mineral extraction and energy corporations in defence of their ancestral homeland.
During this symbolic historic visit the Mapuche leader will also be reunited with her 13 year old daughter Relmutray Cadin Calfunao whom three years ago sought sanctuary in exile in Switzerland as a result of the persecution and incarceration of her mother, her father Werken Antonio Cadin and the reminder of her family residing in under Chilean state law.
Lonko Calfunao and her sister Luisa Calfunao had undertaken a hunger strike in 2006 whilst imprisoned in Temuco women’s penitentiary during their protracted detention between 2006-10. Whilst her son Waikilaf Cadin Calfunao who is currently held indefinitely in Angol prison had participated in the collective 2010 Mapuche political prisoners hunger strike which had ended after almost 3 months of starvation. At this time following the intervention of Catholic Archbishop Ezzati the Chilean Government had finally agreed to negotiate with the Mapuche strikers. The government had thus agreed to end the application of anti terrorist law to non terrorist crimes, to end the use of anonymous witnesses and to try all non military cases in civil courts in line with internationally agreed standards.
On Tues 15th March this year, four Mapuche Political prisoners Héctor Llaitul, Ramón Llanquileo, Johnatan Huillical and José Huenuche all of whom are members of Co-ordinadora Arauco Malleco, incarcerated in Lebu Prison, Chile committed to resume the Oct 2010 hunger strike as a result of the failed promise of right wing President Pinera to reform the judicial procedures applied commonly to Mapuche land rights activists trying them in military courts using anonymous often paid witnesses under Anti Terrorist legislation with sentances of up to and above 100 years for simple civil charges allegations. The historic application of this legislation initially introduced under the Pinochet dictatorship to quell democratic opposion and dissent has translated into an illicit yet effective means of silencing the just democratic rights of the Mapuche Nation in their struggle for the return of their ancestral territory and self determination.
On Tues 22nd March the Lebu four face their final court trial for the charge of the attempted murder for attacking Chilean prosecutor Mario Elgueta along with 13 other men in 2008. It is likely that the Mapuche activists will be joined on their hunger strike by fellow Mapuche political prisoners imprisoned across Chile.
As an indigenous Mapuche community leader Lonko Calfunao, her family and community have been just one example of the thousands of Mapuche families, communities and in particular their leaders who have been systematically persecuted, laid under siege by Chilean military forces, imprisoned and tortured for generations as a result of their resistance to assimilation and occupation by the Chilean and Argentinean states.
Mapuche International Link