A Repressive Status Quo

Mapuche activists demonstrate in a fountain during a hunger strike. (Flickr/the future is unwritten)
Mapuche activists demonstrate in a fountain during a hunger strike. (Flickr/the future is unwritten)

Chile’s president-elect, Sebastian Piñera of the right-wing party Renovación Nacional (National Renewal, RN) recently announced that he plans to “modernize” the country’s Anti-Terrorist Law when he takes office. This announcement builds on promises from throughout his 2017 Chilean electoral campaign, when Piñera said on multiple occasions that his new aministration would seek to perfect the law, which dates back to the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship and allows authorities to detain suspects without bail. This law has been used to target activists, particularly the Mapuche, Chile’s Indigenous population of around 1.5 million people. The likely revamping of this law, after Piñera takes office on March 11, has worrisome implications for the increased repression of the Mapuche.

Recent raids by the Chilean police have left Mapuche communities vulnerable, injured, and concerned about future policy toward them. As Ana Piquer, director of Amnesty International told Al Jazeera in January: “It affects the whole community…They arrive violently; they raid every house, throw tear gas…In one recent case, a pre-school with little children were all affected and had to be taken to hospital.”

Amnesty International’s 2017-2018 report accused the Chilean government of abusing the Anti-Terrorist Law and using excessive police force against the Mapuche. Piquer declared that the Chilean government is inciting hatred against the Mapuche, which is being used as an excuse to transgress human rights through force.

Such events are not new—since Chile’s return to democracy in 1990, successive governments regardless of party have drawn on the Anti-Terrorist Law, which was enacted in 1984, to target the Mapuche.  These laws allow for longer periods of detention without charge, the interception of correspondence and communication, the use of secret evidence and faceless witnesses in court, which removes the right to cross-examination. The case of Mapuche spiritual leader Francisca Linconao, who was charged under the Anti-Terrorist Law in 2013 for the alleged murder of two landlords in Vilcun by arson, garnered much attention in 2017. Last November 2017, the city of Temuco’s Criminal Acourt acquitted Linconao and 11 other detained Mapuche activists due to lack of evidence. Piñera’s recent comments suggest that an updated version of the law would also increase surveillance capabilities. Read more


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