• Press Release

Chile: Life of imprisoned Indigenous leader is in imminent danger

July 26, 2018

Thousands of ethnic Mapuches, Chile's largest indigenous group, participate in a protest rally in Santiago on October 15, 2012. Hundreds of indigenous Chileans and members of social organizations marched demanding the restitution of their ancestral lands -- just days after the 520th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in America. AFP PHOTO/Martin BERNETTI (Photo credit should read MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/GettyImages)

In response to the dry hunger strike that Machi Celestino Córdova, a Mapuche spiritual leader who is currently imprisoned, convicted of homicide induced by arson, has begun in protest of the denial of his rights to health and religious freedom, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International, sent an open letter to President Sebastián Piñera today stating:

“Following several months of hunger strike in protest because the Chilean authorities have not let him go to his rewe, or ceremonial altar, a sacred place for his people, in order to carry out a renewal ceremony which all Indigenous religious leaders known as machis must undertake periodically in that place, Machi Celestino Córdova is now refusing water, putting his life and health at serious and imminent risk.”

“The fact that he is imprisoned should not prevent the Machi from exercising his right to religious freedom and to practice his beliefs. It is extremely worrying that, according to the information we have received, the Chilean government has not tried to find a solution which would allow them to guarantee his rights, taking into account the right of Indigenous Peoples to preserve their culture, a right which is not lost when imprisoned.”

“The authorities must immediately give the relevant orders to grant Machi Celestino Córdova this request, maintaining a constructive dialogue in good faith and with a view to reaching an agreement, acknowledging that the Machi’s request is of great spiritual and cultural significance to the Mapuche People.”