Mapuche solidarity protest in Vancouver

Vancouver protest in solidarity with the Mapuche

A small group of demonstrators gathered yesterday in front of the Chilean Consulate in Vancouver to show their solidarity with Mapuche and anarchist political prisoners in Chile.

Over thirty Mapuche prisoners have been on hunger strike since July 12, and dozens more have joined the strike in solidarity since then. Some of the prisoners have been transferred to hospital without the prison guards or the police informing their families of where they are being taken. Most recently, the anti-poet of Chile, Nicanor Parra, joined the hunger strike. He is 96 years old.

On August 14 of this year, 14 anarchists were arrested and imprisoned, accused under anti-terrorist legislation of being connected to a series of explosions in Chile. Supporters say the charges are a total fabrication.

“Today the strong connection in Chile is that the Anarchists and the Mapuche Indigenous radical movement are the only two political movements in Chile that are really defying the status quo of capitalism, of neo-liberalism in Chile,” said Claudio Escobar, a Chilean living in Canada who helped to organize Friday’s action. “They are the only two real non-reformist movements in Chile, and they see that connection.”

As those gathered handed out leaflets to folks passing by, the police kept a close watch on the demonstration, approaching demonstrators a number of times.

Mario Hueche, a Mapuche man who lives in Vancouver, also joined the picket. He described the life of Mapuche peoples on the land as “very difficult… they’ve been abandoned, just like the Indigenous people in Chiapas, and in the rest of Latin America.”

Hueche recently visited his uncle in a rural area in Chile, and he said that his uncle told him that the land is getting tired, and the crops they sow are not providing as much food as they used to. Hueche left Chile during the military dictatorship, and he explained that many Mapuche are in exile in the US, Canada, Switzerland and Spain.

“We’ve had four governments of concertación [left-progressive parties in congress], and not one of them said ‘enough with humiliation’… They have all refused to give us the respect that human beings deserve,” said Hueche. The right wing government of Sebastian Piñera assumed power in March of 2010, and conflicts between the government and Mapuche peoples, as well as the anarchist movement, have continued to worsen.

The organizers of yesterday’s demonstration have been in the streets many times over the past months to raise awareness about the criminalization of dissent in Chile.

“We’ll continue to stand here in front of the Chilean Consulate, and we encourage people to take their own initiatives as well, as was done yesterday by some group of courageous young people that apparently showed up and did a direct action in front of the entrance of the Chilean Consulate,” said Escobar.

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