Monday, June 3, 2013

Interview with Gabriel Valenzuela Montoya in the prison for minors in Chol Chol, Chile, May 31, 2013

May 31, 2013

Gabriel Valenzuela Montoya, a Mapuche teenager of the community Wente Winkul Mapu, is already serving nine months in pretrial detention. Accused of a crime of which claims to be absolutely innocent, in a case that the prosecution holds suspended, on May 13 he launched a hunger strike which, he says, he will keep up "until the end."

Gabriel Valenzuela Montoya is being held in the center of the National Service for Minors in Chol Chol, Araucanía Region, more than 120 miles from home in the commune of Ercilla. He is there since September 3, 2012 when he was formalized for the assault and homicide of the farmer Héctor Gallardo Aillapán. Two other young Mapuche, Leonardo Quijón and Luis Marileo, are charged in the same case and because they are adults they are in pretrial detention in the prison of Angol.

- If you did not commit the crime of which you are charged, why did you turn yourself in to the police?

- Because they called my lawyer and my leader, the Werkén Daniel Melinao, and told them that I was wanted for that cause. So to prevent them from coming to raid my house and my community I chose to turn myself in voluntarily, also as I am not guilty, I gave myself to the police.

- Do you have witnesses who can attest and prove your innocence?

- There are witnesses who know that I was at home and did not go out that day. They already declared but, as it is the prosecution, they were not taken into account.

- The prosecution insists on its own version that Leonardo Quijón, Luis Marileo and you are to blame.

- That means that the prosecution has not investigated anything. I have already served nine months in detention and they have had time enough to investigate.

- Your defense has requested a change in your precautionary measures?

- Yes, two times.

- Both times it has been denied, why?

- Because the judge prefers to believe the prosecutor who always mentions the same, that I'm a danger to society and therefore should be held in detention.

- This is the first time you are in prison?

- Yes, before I have never been arrested.

- But it is not the first time that you must declare in a court case.

- Well no, last year I had to testify, but as a victim.

- Victim of what?

- Of a shooting by the cops. That was when they raided my community, in June 2012. That time the cops shot me, they were looking for my cousin Eric Montoya for attempted homicide of a cop.

- And why did they shoot you if you were not the person who the police were looking for?

- That is while we went out to see what was happening because we felt that a lot of cars were going up the road outside the community. There were many cops arriving, without showing a warrant, nothing, and they began to enter homes and to break everything. Then we started to take them out, we threw them out. That is where they came back in and then began shooting, tear gas, bullets, everything. And there it was that I was shot in the back, in the ribs.

- You were arrested by the police?

- No, I was not arrested because I hid in a depression and I stayed there until they left. My back hurt a lot but I waited for about twenty minutes until they left and then came out. After that it was that the Mapuche Criminal Defense filed a complaint in the Court of Temuco, for the violence with which they acted and which left seven seriously injured, including my grandfather and three children. Then they called me and I gave evidence against prosecutor Luis Chamorro, because he is responsible for the police coming firing at anyone.

- Do you think that statement has any relation to your current situation?

- Yes, I believe that the prosecutor was stung by that and then took advantage of the case of Gallardo to get me involved.

- How old are you?

- I was arrested at 17, and turned 18 in detention on January 17.

- Where and with whom do you live?

- I live in the community Winkul Wente Mapu, with my mother, my stepfather and five siblings. I am the oldest.

- At the time of your arrest you were studying?

- No, I was working. I reached only to seventh grade because I could not continue studying, but now in the prison I finished the seventh and eighth and now I'm doing first and second medium.

- In what did you work?

- I have worked much in many things. I was working in the north, in fruit, in Curico. And now I was working for the family of Hector Gallardo and another contractor on a forest crop. I worked like ten days with the Gallardo's and on the same Saturday September 1, when these crimes occurred, I went to work. That day they would come to pay us but I did not want to collect because I preferred to wait to gather some more. So I was there until about 12 o'clock and then I went to my house ...

- So You knew Héctor Gallardo and his family.

- Yes, we have always known them as they were from the same sector. My family got along well with that family, we never had a problem.

- What do you remember of what happened afterwards?

- Well, I got home, took a shower and slept all afternoon. I was waiting for my family to arrive who were selling vegetables in Collipulli and came at about 6 am. So I helped unload the truck and we drank coffee, then I went to chop firewood and at about 7 I started to wash celery for salads that my mom was going to sell on Sunday, the cabbages, the lettuces. Then I entered and started to chop the celery and I was doing that when at about and a half, we heard some shots on the road down from us. We thought it was the cops, but we did not want to leave the house, we called the neighbors and it was not there in the community. Later my grandfather came and said that the radio had said that the gentleman had died. We were frozen, we could not believe it.

- If you were not there, and neither Leonardo Quijón nor Luis Marileo, where did the accusation come from that involves you?

- That I can explain simply as a setup. At first they said there were three assailants, they gave no names, then they changed their the version and they accused me, Leo Quijón and Luis Marileo.

- How has the time been that you have passed in confinement?

- I've been just so-so. It is hard, I'm away from my home, my family.

- Have you had conflicts with prison staff?

- No, not conflicts, but when the "riot police" comes to take me to some proceedings it is very hard, they come armed and take me out shackled hand and foot, and that makes me feel very bad. Also the crime of which they accuse me is very bad and everyone looks at you, that's sad, it is humiliating. And on the other hand the prison guards, how they hate and discriminate us! When my family comes to visit they hamper their entry and they are always intimidating and discriminating us for being Mapuche, without a modicum of respect.

- You are now on hunger strike. What is the purpose of this
extreme decision? 

- Yes, I am on hunger strike since May 13 and I made this decision at the zero intention of the Chilean State and its Justice of responding to my request as Mapuche political prisoner to accelerate my process. I'm starting the tenth month of imprisonment. The decision to take this hunger strike until the last consequences has been difficult for me and for my family, but I assume it responsibly and declare myself willing to go on with it until my demands are met.

- Why do you declare yourself a Mapuche political prisoner?

- Because I belong to a community that is being persecuted for fighting for the recovery of its lands. My leader Daniel Melinao is imprisoned, my family has been persecuted, my cousin Eric is clandestine. And the situation I'm going through is not new, since 2009 Mapuche children have been imprisoned, or subjected to abuses that have left many harmed for life, as is the case of my peñi Leonardo Quijón, who was acquitted of all charges that he was accused of, he was imprisoned for nearly a year, suffering from harassment by the prison guards who did not respect his health condition, with more than 200 shotgun pellets in his leg as a result of an attack by police.
Then the imprisonment of Mapuche children went on with Cristián Cayupán and Luis Marileo, who after months in detention were acquitted of any wrongdoing and in other cases they have not yet found any evidence to condemn them. All this shows clearly the great setup invented by the Chilean State against us.

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