Sunday, January 13, 2008

Police Brutality in "Democratic" Chile

Mapuche Student Shot Dead; Political Prisoner Slowly Dying From Hunger

13th January 2008

A peaceful protest by the Mapuche met a bloody end on 3rd January when
police opened fire into the crowd, killing 22-year-old university student
Matias Catrileo Quezada. The young Mapuche man was shot in the back upon
retreating, when Chilean police began firing indiscriminately into the crowd
with machine guns. Among the protestors were elderly civilians and children,
and it was a miracle that nobody else was killed.

For years the Chilean judicial system has refused to deliver justice and
return the indigenous land illegally taken by the estate Santa Margarita,
owned by Jorge Luchsinger, in the district of Vilcun. The local Mapuche
protested by moving onto their land to attract the attention of the
authorities. The police responded by shooting into the crowd, which
immediately dispersed and ran for cover.

Due to serious mistrust in the conduct of Chilean institutions, including
the police (who have a long history of manipulating the evidence to meet
their own ends), Matias' body was handed to the local Catholic Church, who
appointed Bishop Sixto Parzinger to arrange an independent autopsy, and
mediate with the authorities. This murder has caused immediate outrage among
both the Mapuche communities and non-Mapuche throughout the ancestral
territory of the Mapuche, and the capital of Chile, Santiago.

The ensuing civil outcry has been met with yet more unnecessary police
brutality, which has resulted in many protestors being injured and detained,
including Matias Catrileo's mother, Monica Quezada, his sister, and various
other members of his family. On the 9th January, in the city of Temuco,
Monica Quezada was arrested along with 16 other protestors during a march
condemning the murder of her son by the police.

The tension between the Mapuche people and the Chilean authorities has been
growing since the 10th of October 2007, when six Mapuche political prisoners
went on hunger strike and were subsequently ignored by their government. The
prisoners originally agreed to stop their protest upon the intervention of
Bishop Camilo Vial, who organised a mediation between the Mapuche and the
government in an effort to clarify the conditions concerning their
imprisonment. Including why the authorities had decided to use the
Anti-Terrorism Law, a relic from the time of the Pinochet dictatorship that
only last year the President had promised never again to use upon the
Mapuche. The Chilean government agreed to this mediation, and on the 17th
December the negotiations were supposed to start. With this agreement, all
but one of the prisoners, Patricia Troncoso, stopped their hunger strike.
Patricia decided that she would wait until the talks began to take place,
and she was sure of the government's integrity in this situation, before she
joined them. And she was right to do so, as this agreement has apparently
now been forgotten.

Patricia Troncoso is now being kept alive by a saline drip. She has been on
hunger strike for 93 days. According to the latest medical report issued on
the 7th January 2008, Patricia has lost 26.2% of her original weight, is
suffering from cramps, slowed heart rate, respiratory difficulties, and has
a very weak pulse. The mental examination found that she is speaking very
slowly, she is disorientated, and she is drifting in and out of
consciousness. The prognosis for her future shows that, even if she were she
to stop this now, she would still never fully recover. Her body has suffered
too much damage to be able to return to its former health. Patricia
continues her protest, but she is dying. Patricia's private doctor, Doctor
Berna Castro Rojas, advises that her patient be kept in the hospital
permanently, rather than the current situation of traveling back and forth
from prison. She also states that Patricia should be undergoing at least
daily examinations, but that this is not happening. She is being neglected.
In her final report, Doctor Castro Rojas requested that Patricia be
immediately interned in a hospital that would guarantee her life, have
doctors continuously accessible, and respect her rights of protest.

The present outrage felt by the Mapuche communities has been expressed
through many public protests. These demonstrations, though passionate, have
not been violent on the side of the Mapuche; however, they have been
aggressively broken up by the ‘military police', who have used water cannons
to disperse the crowds, and have beaten and arrested countless Mapuche and
supporters, including children. The result of this is that the tension is
continuing to escalate.

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