Luis, Cristian, Jose, we wanted to hear in your own words what the situation you’re facing is really like.
I’ll start. My name is Cristian Alexis Cayupán Morales, of the Lof [family] Muko. I have been here for more than 11 months waiting while the court hearing is being prepared. It has been put back again and again. My Dad has been sick with terminal cancer for some years now, and I don’t like having to be away from him. I think that there has been much injustice done us children, us minors. For example, when I was arrested they tortured me, they threatened to harm my family. They beat me, they tortured me physically and psychologically. The time here passes with much sadness, there is so much pain here. Despite everything we’ve done: writing and going on a hunger strike, we’re still here. And we will go on resisting as much as we can, because there is nothing more we can do: we’re here, we’re captive, and we just have to fight back with what strength we have, with your minds, and by asking the support of the people who read this. What we want to do is talk about the injustice that was done us Mapuche children, to the Mapuche people. We do not want what happened us to happen to our brothers, our children, our grandchildren.
What is happening today, Cristian, in your community?
In my community today there are no young people left, there are only the mothers, the grandmothers, the small children. They’re the ones who remained; and they’re they ones who are still suffering oppression. And the oppressors are still looking for more children to deceive, from whom they try to extract information with threats.
What kind of falsehoods are happening to the children in the communities?
They give presents to the small children, toys, cookies, sweets, and then they ask them questions, they come to see them in school and if they spy them in the street they interrogate them and threaten them.
What are your thoughts now, almost two months after the end of the hunger strike?
I did not join the strike because my Dad is ill or because we have financial problems. But what I find unjust is that young people like we had to go on a hunger strike as the only way to achieve some things, although in the end we achieved almost nothing. We had to risk the lives of adults and also of children for that.
Luis, can you tell us about yourself and your situation?
My name is Luis Marileo Maniqueo, and I am of the community Cacique Jose Guiñón in the Ercilla area. I have already been in this place for almost seven months. I can see that grave injustices have been committed against us, because our rights have not been respected at all.
They took us out of our schools, they took us away from our families, they tortured us, they accused us of being terrorists which we are not. And they’re holding us prisoners here. Remember that our comrade Leonardo Quijón arrived here one day, wounded in his leg, and that he spent about six months here. He managed to demonstrate his innocence at his hearing, but nobody took responsibility for the six months that he spent in jail, all the psychological damage that was done to him, and which is being done to us as well. In reality you can’t make good that kind of damage that is done to us where we’re being kept prisoners and we know that there isn’t a country in the where minors have been accused of being terrorists. So why we? I took part in the hunger strike. I spent 42 days without tasting food. The government told us that they suspended the Antiterrorism Act, but when we requested to see the classified information, they wouldn’t let us because there has been no real change made to the Act, not enough. The government has deceived us, the children and minors, because we’re still accused of terrorism charges. They won’t let us go. We’re being accused by nameless witnesses who are shielded and who make false accusation. There is no way of proving that we took part in what they accuse us of. The truth is that we’re here because a witness whom nobody knows got it into their head to say that we’re guilty. I say to you that we never have taken part in any violent acts, we are students. I was in third grade in college and was working to enable me to study. Last year, I hadn’t been there for a week when they came for me and I’ve not been able to go back [to college]. Nobody cares about all the work and the efforts made by my Mum and my whole family so that I could study. The government does not respect our right to study and to be with our families, they don’t respect nothing at all.
You took part in the hunger strike, what things were achieved?
My impression is that some things have changed, others are still the same, like what Cristian said that they still use the Act on us although we’re minors. In my case, my Dad requested the classified information, and although we won with two judges who voted in favour and only one judge who voted against my freedom, it was not granted because under the Antiterrorism Act, all three have to be in favour.
Jose, can you tell us about yourself and why you held in this centre?
I am here because they accuse to me of being a terrorist because I am Mapuche. I am here because I think differently, because my culture is different, because my thinking is different, because I am from a community that is engaged in the conflict, a place where the Chilean state is in conflict with the community because it does not give us back our land. Ever since I have been a child, my community has been oppressed by the state. I’m a prisoner here because there was no one else left in the communities who they could have arrested. Because all the adults are prisoners, now they are locking up the children. They are locking us up and I don’t know who they’re going to jail next because there’s nobody left in the communities, only the women and the old ones, they have been spared. We have been here for months and there is more to come and we’re already sick of it, but there are more months yet because they did not change the Act as they promised, it did not do us any good. They told us that we would not be accused of terrorism any more, but we’re still being called terrorists. They haven’t touched the classified information, nothing, none of our rights have been respected. I took part in the hunger strike because I thought that things would finally change. I stopped my hunger strike because my family was worried, and also because I believed what the government said, that everything would be worked out. In the end non of it was true, we were deceived again, we were deceived with false words. They said that the Antiterrorism Act had been suspended, but we’re still here, and who knows how much more time we will have to spend here?
What message would you like to give to young Mapuche people, and to those others who are going to read these words?
My message is that they should not be afraid, that they need not be afraid, jail is not going to shut up our people. This is a battle which we must win. They must not be scared because we are in jail. I would ask the youth to support to us from the outside, to support to us in one way or another; that is what I would ask of everybody, that they give us their support. This is what I want to communicate to the youth people: that they support to us, that we are still strong despite everything that happened to us. That maybe today we are being tortured and persecuted for being Mapuche, but that is not reason enough to give up the struggle. I hope that people who are reading this sitting in their houses will do something for us, so that what happened to us will not happen to their children who are free. I would ask them to help us regain our freedom, and to help that what happened to us won’t happen to other children, so that their families don’t have to go through what our families are going through. I would ask them to help that these injustices are not repeated, the torture, the falsehoods, the persecution that means that children cannot live like children: so that children have all the rights that they should have (to live with their family, to being able to study and make something of their life). I ask all people for their help and support. We’re being held here. We don’t want what happened us to happen to our brothers, our children, our grandchildren, to anyone of our blood, which is the Mapuche blood.