A Chilean doctor said Tuesday that a Mapuche indigenous leader sentenced to prison for the arson murders of an elderly couple is now at risk of death due to a long hunger strike.
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Celestino Cordova – an imprisoned Mapuche Indigenous leader – is on the verge of death, according to a Chilean doctor. Cordova is now on the 81st day of a hunger strike pleading for a temporary 48-hour release in order to renew his Rewe – or Mapuche religious altar.
According to local media and the young Cordova’s lawyer, the prisoner has lost approximately 21 kilograms since he began his hunger strike in late January and his heart rate now hovers around 48 beats per minute. He has also lost consciousness several times because of low blood sugar. Cordova had made several written requests for a temporary leave to the Temuco prison authorities where he’s carrying out an 18-year sentence, before deciding to go without food.
"There’s an imminent vital risk after 80 days without feeding himself," Cordova’s doctor, Nelson Reyes, said yesterday.
Gabriela Calfucoy, spokesperson for Cordova tells La Tercera media outlet,
"His organs are getting worse. Mainly he has an irregular heartbeat…and at any minute something serious could happen."
The Mapuche leader was sentenced in 2014 for allegedly killing Werner Luchsinger and his wife Vivian MacKay the year prior in an arson attack on their home located in the Araucania region of Chile, about 700km south of Santiago.
During the 2013 trial prosecutors say that "hooded men" entered the couple’s property spreading pamphlets on the death anniversary of a young Mapuche activist who was shot in the back by police close to where Luchsinger and MacKay lived.
According to the record, Luchsinger fired a gunshot at one of the trespassers and the men set fire to his home, killing the couple inside. Cordova was arrested that night covered in mud and with a gun wound to his hand. He denies any wrongdoing and is the only person to have been convicted of the death of Luchsinger and MacKay.
It’s unlikely that conservative President Sebastian Piñera will intervene to grant Cordova a 2-day leave going on the fact that he never ceded to the several prisoner hunger strike demands during his first term (2010-2014). Last week the president sent in riot police and water cannons to disperse peaceful Mapuche demonstrations in Temuco over ancestral lands in the region and national police have used excessive force against women protesters.