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Mapuche Hunger Strike Reaches Crisis Point

Political Prisoners Fight For Madre Tierra

The renewed hunger strike of 15 political prisoners of the Mapuche resistance movement in Chile has reached a highly critical stage. The prisoners are members of the Coordinadora Arauco-Malleco (CAM), a movement that is involved in direct action to recover ancestral lands in order to protect Madre Tierra from spoliation by logging companies and big business latifundios.

The weichafe ecowarriors also identify by their Spanish acronym PPM (Presos Políticos Mapuche). They have been in a protracted struggle for political autonomy and protection of their wallmapu homeland from destructive commercial exploitation. But the Chilean state, under the supposedly leftist government of Gabriel Boric, insists on criminalising the CAM and stigmatising any action for national liberation as ‘terrorist’.  [1]

Four weichafe commenced a hunger strike on November 13th, and have since been joined by two other groups of PPM. Their two central demands are:

  • Annulment of the political and unjust convictions without evidence against CAM political prisoners and the right of due process. Their conviction of at least 15 years imprisonment was not based on evidence but on racist profiling.
  • Better conditions of detention, respecting their collective rights as indigenous people, including implementation of communal modules in the prisons. The Chilean state should respect ILO Convention 169 regarding the cultural relevance of the deprivation of liberty of indigenous peoples.

Doctors advise that once a hunger striker goes beyond 60 days without food their internal organs begin to collapse and they are in imminent danger of dying.  As at time of writing, January 19th 2024, the first group of strikers are 69 days into their protest.

The families of the political prisoners, especially women, have led the resistance outside the prisons and have called demonstrations and a week of protest from January 22nd.

International solidarity is urgent.

The weichafe are one the foremost contingents of the invisible daily resistance of indigenous peoples to capitalist extractivism.  Their lives are on the line to resist criminalisation and make visible the Mapuche nation’s struggle.  Please support them by writing urgently, calling on the government to respect the prisoners’ rights as Mapuche people, to:

Jaime Gajardo, Subsecretario de Justicia.
E-mail: [email protected]
Mobile number: +569 4275 9326


October 4th. Los Ángeles court, Bio-bio. The trial of Ernesto Llaitul, Esteban Henríquez, Nicolas V. Alcaman and Ricardo D. Reinao. begins in a hybrid format. Many family members and observers cannot enter.

October 16th. Pretrial hearing for Bastian Llaitul; José Lienqueo; Axel Campos; Oscar Cañupan; Roberto Garling.

November 3rd. The 5-week trial at The Los Ángeles court ends. There is no jury. The 3 judges find Ernesto Llaitul, Esteban Henríquez, Nicolas V. Alcaman and Ricardo D. Reinao guilty.

November 13th. These four PPM commence hunger strike in Bio-bío penitentiary

November 16th. The Los Ángeles court passes sentences of 15 years at least.

December 11th. Six PPM held at Bio-bío join the hunger strike: Hector Llaitul; Pelentaro Llaitul; José Lienqueo; Axel Campos; Oscar Cañupan; Roberto Garling.

Graffiti, murals and civil resistance roadblocks appear across wallmapu.

December 13th.  Five more prisoners held separately in Temuco prison join the strike: Bastian Llaitul; Axel Campos; Roberto Garling; José Lienqueo; Oscar Cañupan. They further demand forest companies and military out of wallmapu, and an end to state persecution of the Mapuche resistance to land grabbing.

The court in Lautaro hears a motion to improve conditions of four PPM in pre-trial detention: Pelentaro Llaitul, Luis Menares, J.C. Mardones and Jorge Caniupil. The court refuses to lift the punitive measures.

December 19th. The forestry company Minimco attempts entry into the Santa Ana farm in Coi-Coi, which has been retaken by the indigenous community with CAM’s support. They are repelled.

December 26th. Government spokesperson Senator Camila Vallejo rejects a proposal by the Human Rights Institute to set up talks with the CAM  [2]

January 3rd.  A protest by the Families of the Political Prisoners on the highway is brutally attacked by armoured police with water cannons.

January 11th. The Concepcion Court of Appeal denies the appeal for annulment of the convictions of Nicolás Alcamán, Ernesto Llaitul, Esteban Henríquez and Ricardo Reinao. They refer the case back to the Los Ángeles court.

January 13th. The Los Ángeles court states that it is not possible to hear the appeal as the relevant judges are on holiday.

Minister Monsalvo assures that the government has transferred extra funds 32 million dollars to both police forces (gendarmería and caribineros)

The National Institute of Human Rights (INDH) arranges for a team from the Medical Association to assess. They report that Esteban “requires urgent and comprehensive medical attention”. He is in urgent need of hospitalisation “If he does not receive this assistance, there is a high probability that he will suffer a serious decompensation, deterioration of multiple organs and multi-organ failure, which could lead to his death.”

Esteban is transferred to Concepción regional hospital due to his acute state of health.

January 16th. the gendarmerie return Esteban to Bio-bio prison, ignoring the doctors’ concerns.

Families of the PPM take direct action in the Presidential Office in Bio-bío. Their banners read ’65 days on Hinger Strike’ and ‘Defence of the Land is not Terrorism or a Crime. Free the CAM Political Prisoners!’

January 17th. Two doctors were allowed in Temuco prison to evaluate the condition of the PPM there.  They report the five prisoners have each lost 9 to 14kg since their hunger strike commenced 37 days previously. They reported headaches, fatigue, dizziness and abdominal pains.

Federico Aguirre Madrid, of the Araucanía Institute of Human Rights, calls on the government to respect the prisoners’ rights as Mapuche people. [3]

January 22nd Application to the Appeal Court in Concepción to hear the appeal against conviction of Esteban, Nicolás, Ernesto and Ricardo. The week of protests starts.

By Andy Higginbottom


[1] For a report on previous hunger strike, see


[3] Radio Kvrruf

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