Over the weekend, two prominent members of the Catholic Church in Chile made statements and offered assistance with respect to the current Mapuche hunger strike, which started more than 75 days ago. The Church officials called on all branches of the Chilean Government to find a way to end the strike. Meanwhile, the condition of the Mapuche hunger strikers seems to be worsening according to the latest doctor reports.
On Saturday, May 28th, the Catholic Church held a ceremony to make Fernando Chomalí the new Archbishop of Concepción. Present at the ceremony was Ricardo Ezzati, the current Archbishop of Santiago, and the individual who helped negotiate the end to the most recent Mapuche hunger strike, which lasted around 80 days. Both individuals took the opportunity to speak out about the current strike.
Archbishop Ezzati admitted that in the past two weeks he has spoken with both the President of Chile’s Supreme Court and a commissioner from the United Nations about the issue. Ezzati also made a “call for life” and indicated that he knows the strikers and their families, and stated that everyone wants life to prevail. He went on to say that “the root cause” of the hunger strike is simply a desire to have “their right to their identity” respected. Finally, Archbishop Ezzati called on “all the powers of the State” to intervene swiftly and bring an end to the hunger strike.
The new Archbishop of Concepción, Fernando Chomalí, also made some statements on the Mapuche hunger strike over the weekend. He indicated that he would follow in the footsteps of his predecessor — Archbishop Ezzati — and continue to call for dialogue between the Chilean Government and the Mapuche people involved. Furthermore, Archbisop Chomalí offered his services to act as a mediator in the ongoing conflict.
Chomalí, like Archbishop Ezzati, also had an opportunity to discuss the situation with some high-ranking officials. Specifically, on Friday, May 27th, Chomalí revealed that he had conversed with Chile’s Secretary General of the Presidency, Cristián Larroulet, about the strike. In that conversation, Archbishop Chomalí said that he pushed the Government to move towards more dialogue as it is crucial to building trust. The Archbishop also went one step further, stating that the hunger strike was a “human issue” not a “judicial issue,” and that everything possible must be done to preserve the lives of those on strike.
Finally, he stated that “situations like this should never happen in developed countries,” and stated his hope that “God’s wisdom, intelligence, justice, truth, and — above all else — great interest in social peace” would prevail.
The hunger strike began when four Mapuche individuals were convicted of attempted murder. They maintain that numerous procedural irregularities — including the use of protected witnesses — violated their due process rights. The Chilean Supreme Court has heard their appeal and will announce its decision on June 3rd.