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After 70 Days on Hunger Strike, Mapuche Prisoner Tells His People to “Not Let Their Guard Down” if He Dies

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On July 13, Mapuche spiritual authority Celestino Córdova completed his 71st day of hunger strike in the Angol prison in Chile’s Araucanía region. With his health in a fragile state and having lost 20 kg (45 lbs.), Córdova stated in a communique: “in the case of my possible death I ask my people to not let their guard down.”

Córdova has been on a liquid-only hunger strike since May 4, along with eight other members of his community. They’re demanding the Chilean state allow them to be transferred to their communities, so they can complete their sentences safely amid the Covid-19 health emergency.

Córdova is currently serving an 18-year prison sentence for his alleged involvement in the death of businessman Werner Luchsinger and his wife, Vivianne Mackay, whose charred bodies were found after a fire in January 2013.

In October 2017 the Temuco Court’s Oral Tribunal decided to dismiss charges against 11 Mapuche people for their alleged involvement in the couple’s death. The ruling was unanimous and emphasized the Public Minister’s failure to prove that any of the accused were implicated. Córdova is the only person to be sentenced for the supposed murder of the Luchsingers.

Cristina Romo, one of the hunger strike’s spokespeople, made a call to the rest of the Mapuche Nation to combat this injustice with all types of action: “We call far and wide to continue the different mobilizations (…) keeping in mind that each strong action that our Mapuche sisters and brothers carry out, regardless of where it is done, is the struggle of our Mapuche people and nation,” read the spokeswoman in a communique.

The group of spokespeople stated that, clearly, “the government does not have the resolve to offer a political solution to the critical situation of the Mapuche political prisoners’ hunger strike.

“Dialogue is urgent. We must break the deadlock of the hunger strike. If this ends badly it would make understanding and peace in the Araucanía region extremely difficult,” said Chile’s National Human Rights Institute (INDH) Sergio Micco.

Leonor Olate, the spiritual leader’s private doctor, assured that “as Machi Celestino Córdova’s doctor … I must communicate the seriousness of his state of physical health: severe cardiovascular, renal, and neurological deterioration. A prompt response by the government to his demands is necessary.”

With complete resolve and conviction, Córdova asks his people not only to resist, but also “to fight until the Chilean state returns our ancestral Mapuche territory and the natural resources go back to all of its inhabitants, because today many of them find themselves robbed of their freedom by the Chilean state, causing great spiritual, personal, and socioeconomic damage.

Córdova is talking about the Temuco region, where the greatest number of Mapuche communities and associations are located. It’s known as the “red zone,” a territory where the original peoples claim the land of their ancestors, the majority of which is in the hands of factory and plantation owners.

UPDATE

On the 74th day of his liquid-only hunger strike, Machi Celestino Córdova was urgently transferred to Imperial hospital.

“He’s in the most serious phase. He has too many physical after-effects from the 2018 hunger strike and today we’re up against time,” said Romo.

The spokeswoman called on Chile and the world to show solidarity: “All solidarity, all help, all contributions, all mobilizations are welcomed. Joining the legitimate Mapuche struggle for land defense and liberation. Supporting the dignified resistance of Machi Celestino Córdova, of the eight political prisoners in the Angol jail and the 11 political prisoners in the Lebu jail.”

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