By Cintia Garcia
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
SANTIAGO, CHILE—Protesters and activists demonstrated infront of the National Service for Women and Gender Equality demanding information concerning the deteriorating health of Mapuche spiritual leader, Francisca Linconao. Demonstrators were met with water cannons used by Chile’s militarized police. Many protesters were arrested and claims have arisen that the police used heavy-handed methods against them.
The demonstrations come after Linconao began a hunger strike on December 23rd. She was recently rushed from the detention center to the hospital with chronic gastritis and weighing less than 100 pounds. Reports have surfaced that her health is reaching a life-threatening state. Linconao and 10 others were arrested in March of this year accused of arson for a fire that killed two powerful landlords, Werner Luchsinger and Vivianne Mackay. The evidence used for her arrested under the Chilean anti-terror law remains suspect. Most recently, the main witness retracted her statement. It is believed that Linconao’s arrest is part of the governments campaign to deny the Mapuche community their rights, including territorial rights.
The Mapuche is the largest indigenous population in South America and makes up 10 percent of the Chilean population. They have suffered struggles in defending their native land and traditions. Linconao has emerged as a leading activist and is known for being an important spiritual leader and Mapuche doctor. Linconao continues to claim her innocence “ I have already said that I was willing to go to the trail and prove my innocence, I will not be a fugitive because I am innocent and because I am a Machi who has a role to fulfill in this world: help and cure those who needs me.” Additionally, international organizations like Amnesty International have called for her release while she awaits her trial. On December 14, the court agreed to transfer Linconao to house arrest while she awaits her trial, but the court retracted its decision.
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