Chile: “The bullet that killed Luis Marileo was fired a long time ago”

Comunidad Cacique José Guiñón, Ercilla.

On Saturday 10 June, Luis Marileo and a friend, Patricio Gonzáles, were shot dead in a dispute with Ignacio Gallegos Pereira, the occupier of a large estate and former sergeant with the Carabineros ( National Police). Luis Marileo  was a human rights defender working to protect the rights of the Mapuche people.  According to an eye witness, the two men had entered the disputed land to recover a horse which had escaped. While Gallegos Pereira claims to have been acting in self defence, medical reports suggest that the two men were shot in the back.

While the Spanish empire never managed to defeat the Mapuche and their territorial rights were recognised under numerous treaties, those rights have been consistently undermined both under the Pinochet regime and following the return to democracy. For years, members of the Mapuche people have reported that they have suffered from police violence, torture and ill-treatment, legal persecution, stigmatisation and criminalisation because of their human rights work.

Anti-terror legislation has been used to target Mapuche activists who are routinely smeared as being involved in violent and criminal activity. The Public Prosecutor’s Office has targeted human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, in an attempt to discredit their work to support social organisations and indigenous communities in Chile.

Luis Marileo has a long record of activism defending the rights of the Mapuche people. At the age of 8 he was injured in a police raid on his home. When he was sixteen he was arrested under the anti-terror legislation (the first person to be targeted under this legislation) and spent 7 months in prison, even though he was a minor. He was finally released because there was no evidence to link him to the crimes of which he was accused. In 2013, he was sentenced to 10 years and one month in prison, charged with the murder of landowner Héctor Gallardo, a charge which he always denied. During his time in prison he took part in several hunger strikes to protest at the use of secret witnesses in ordinary civil cases. After three years he was released on provisional liberty.

The killing of Luis Marileo and Patricio Gonzales is consistent with a pattern of entrenched discrimination, defamation and violence against Mapuche activists.

“Ayer fue asesinado Luis Marileo, pero la bala que lo mató fue disparada hace mucho antes, fue disparada desde el momento en que los gobiernos de la Concertación (hoy Nueva Mayoría) y la Derecha, optaron por la criminalización del movimiento, optaron por marcar con fuego las vidas de los niños y jóvenes de comunidad”, publicaba Claudio Alvarado Lincopi.

“Yesterday Luis Marileo was shot dead but the bullet that killed him was fired a long time ago; it was fired when the authorities in Concertación (now called Nueva Mayoría)  and La Derecha decided to criminalise the movement and to mark out with fire the lives of children and young people in the community”, said Claudio Alvarado Lincopi.