Published on July 4, 2013
By Carolina Rojas N.
Blows with fists and rifle butts and persecution is the daily life of the adolescents and children of the Mapuche communities. Gabriel Valenzuela of Wente Winkul Mapu already served 53 days on hunger strike, his case is the face of the littles growing up amid the violence in the raids and prosecutions.
The community Wente Winkul Mapu can sometimes be a haven amid the ongoing turmoil. Located in the commune Ercilla, fifty Mapuche families are living from the planting and harvesting of corn, oats and vegetables. That is the case of the family of Gabriel Valenzuela, the young Mapuche who carried 53 days on hunger strike. His stepfather, Luis Melinao is werkén (spokesperson) of the community and his mother, Teresa Montoya works selling vegetables in the market in Collipulli. That is, when they are not spending time in the hearings or visiting their son.
Before the arrest of Gabriel they lived and worked together, sometimes they had good days like all families, until the bad luck struck. That green and quiet landscape that prevails amid ravines, it becomes a hell when hit by the raids with its rows of police cars and bullets which hit the elderly and children in the community.
- Gabriel loved horses- says Luis.
And he is speaking in the past tense, because his stepson now seems another person, he has lost ten kilos, has a depression and always he suffers from nausea. On two occasions he was rushed to hospital in New Imperial for continuous tachycardias. Luis believes his son is sick with grief. Gabriel sometimes is a specter that calls to his family.
The young man is a presumed co-author of the acts that resulted in the death of Hector Gallardo, a neighbor and settler of the town of San Ramón in Ercilla. Also accused in the same case are Luis Marileo and Leonardo Quijón, who are in custody in the jail of Angol.
Still, Gabriel holds to his decision not to eat and only ingests liquids, this is a battle that will not give up until his demands as a Mapuche political prisoner are recognized. He and his advocate Nelson Miranda denounce the lack of transparency in the judicial process, the expansion of the deadline of the investigation and the damage that is caused by the distance to his family. He has spent more than ten months locked up and demands to be transferred to the prison in Angol to be close to other community members and meet with his parents more than once a week.
Today visits are a great sacrifice.
"We have to pay three thousand pesos for the bus and it takes us over two hours to travel to the prison in Chol Chol," explains his stepfather to detail how the imprisonment of Gabriel has destabilized the family. First of all, the young man took care of his four younger siblings while their parents went to work on the market. "It is not much what we earn and every time we visit Gabriel we have to pay 3000 pesos on a bus trip to a distance of almost more than two hours, we want to be close to him," says Luis.
Nelson Miranda, the defense lawyer for Gabriel Valenzuela says the young Mapuche turned himself in voluntarily, as soon as he heard that he was incriminated in the death of the settler, there were also submitted witnesses who testified that Valenzuela was far from the place where it all happened. "It was a protected witness who said he recognized his voice from more than 50 meters, at night, because he had heard him talking in a micro, it is very unfair, this is another reason for his hunger strike," says Miranda.
According to the lawyer, the period initially fixed for the investigation of this case was four months, but the preparations for the trial only started on April 11 and stopped on the same day, there they remained frozen ever since. "On that occasion, the prosecutor Luis Chamorro refused to obey the decision of judge Claudio Campos, at the request of the defense, requiring him to disclose two official documents referring to witness protection measures, and filed an appeal which was rejected by the Court of Temuco. On 28th May, the Prosecution appealed this ruling, now this situation must be resolved by the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the accused remain confined without being convicted and they are completing their tenth month behind bars, "he says.
Nelson Miranda relates the case of Gabriel with the testimony he made for the prosecutor Chamorro's disqualification. The young Mapuche testified before the Court of Temuco after the violent raid in June 2012, during which he received a shotgun blast in the back and several members of his family were seriously injured.
Karina Riquelme is a defense attorney for Mapuche community members of the Community Autonomous Temucuicui, she explains that Gabriel's case is an example of a reality that strikes children and young people in the communities. She says that for seven years she has had to observe how the littles coexist with police presence and have had to assimilate procedures that are performed without any protocol that includes respecting their rights. "We must emphasize that the state of Chile is party to the Convention on the Rights of the child, their organisms have a duty to respect these rights. Nor do they instruct the police forces how to perform their procedures, "she explains. To Riquelme, what most calls the attention to this problem is that the children do not smile, and their seriousness intensifies as they grow older, all caused by the police persecution. Riquelme insists that the repression in Araucania is their daily bread, especially for communities that are fighting for ancestral rights. "In the absence of an effective response from the state to the problem, criminalization is used to keep their leaders engaged in judicial matters," she explains.
For her, a clear example was the case of Vania Queipul, werkén of Temucuicui, and daughter of the Lonko, who has been criminalized since she was 15, she was acquitted in a first trial and only recently convicted in a second trial. "Her cousin Patrick Queipul also suffered constant arrests and numerous criminalizations and he went clandestine in order not to be judged under the Anti-Terrorism Act," she recalls.
Nelson Miranda insists on this point and says that teenagers and children are the Mapuche age group has been most damaged by the police repression. "They live in the middle of raids that are true armed assaults against their communities. There are many children who have had to spend long periods in custody (...) The damage to Mapuche childhood communities is immeasurable, it is a generation marked by post-traumatic effects," he emphasizes.
Anwar Quesille, Attorney of the Legal Protection Area of Unicef Chile, said that four years ago complaints of violence began escalating and even when his work was devoted to intercultural education, because of these acts of violence against children, he is now focused on the development of a work plan in coordination with government agencies and civil society. "These are not informal complaints, for example there are judgments of the Courts of Justice where they have called on the police not to carry out informal interrogations within schools as was the case in the Blanca Lepin school ..." he explains.
The case cited refers to a protective action which was filed on behalf of two ten years old Mapuche minors of the indigenous community Muko Bajo, against the Police Prefecture of Cautín and the Chilean Investigative Police. The children were interrogated and intimidated to ask them for names and whereabouts of community members, despite their young age.
"We emphasize that the police have the role and responsibility of ensuring public order and to fulfill orders such as to account for a warrant, but at the same time they should never lose sight of the respect for the rights of the Mapuche people and particularly the children who are in the communities, and it is clear that when the Courts pronounces itself and says that there are cases in which children were injured, with psychological reports, expert opinions and finding of injuries, we have made public statements in which we call on the police to adjust their procedures to the Constitution," he explains.
Meanwhile, Gabriel will continue waiting to be closer to his parents and for the process to be restarted. For his community, he is a brave young man who will not lay down his strike until he is transfered. "I need to continue to strengthen my identity, I need to chat with some peñi every morning on my pewma (dreams), to talk about our processes, learn more about our territorial and family history. And here, at over 3 hours of travel, in another territory, once a week, it is impossible ... "he revealed in one of his latest statements. Gabriel will not give up.
The attacks suffered by children
In 2004 a report by the Health Service of Northern Araucanía revealed how the visits, raids and constant surveillance by militarized police, Investigations police, Special Forces and public prosecutors affected the inhabitants of Mapuche communities. The document, by psychologist Claudia Molina, European Commission of Human Rights and Ancestral Peoples (CEDHPA, charged that the children were beaten to the floor and the wall, receiving beatings with gun butts and warned of the traumatic effects they had for being witnesses of strong scenes where their parents and other relatives are constantly assaulted.
The document also showed that the little ones move from one pole to another of their emotions, they cry easily, they are attending to school exhausted and have difficulty sleeping because they sleep fitfully as a result of nightmares.
Within other aggressions in recent reports, the psychologist adds that the Mapuche minors are victims of torture, kidnapping, death threats to themselves or close family members, that they are threatened with guns to inform on significant referents of their communities.
Within the illegitimate pressures that occur during questioning the children are handcuffed for long periods of time, they are chased by police helicopters and have been victims of buckshot or bullet wounds. "Another form of aggression is the imprisonment of their parents or other close relatives, causing damage at the level of linking and attachment, the children of persecuted community members suffer symptoms associated with separation anxiety disorders (...) Acts for which those responsible remain completely unpunished. Aggression in schools like interrogations, surveillance, taking pictures, all involve an invasion of everyday spaces, with that the children lose all sense of security," he concludes.