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Mapuche end hunger strike in Chile
Sun, 10 Oct 2010 02:36:25 GMT
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A protest in support of the hunger strike of 34 Mapuche prisoners on strike in jails in the south of Chile
Ten indigenous Mapuche Indians have ended their prison hunger strike after an agreement with the Chilean government to drop terrorism charges against them.

The spokesman of the 10 Mapuche prisoners said on Saturday they decided to end the strike despite the fact that the agreement was "not totally satisfactory for the Mapuche people."

Last week, the Chilean government agreed to drop terrorism charges against the Mapuche protesters, who clashed with police in a land claim campaign, and refile the charges as common crimes, AFP reported.

Following the agreement, a first group of 24 Mapuches abandoned their hunger strike but the 10 others still refused to eat.

The Mapuche protesters had clashed with police in a land claim campaign in an area of the Araucania region -- 640 kilometers (400 miles) south of Santiago -- which they claim as their ancestral homeland.

Under a strict law going back to the time of former dictator General Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean government filed terrorism charges against the Indians.

The law authorizes the government to detain people for up to two years without any charges and limit their access to evidence.

About one third of Chile's 650,000 Mapuches live in the poor south-central Araucania region. In the early 19th century, following the invasions of Spanish colonizers, the Mapuches' lost their lands to Argentina and Chile.

Although thousands of hectares of land have been returned to the Mapuche since 1993, they still say the government has not done enough.

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