Chile: Three indigenous leaders face life in prison for defending human rights

Mark Trahant

Mapuche Indigenous activists persecuted by Chilean (in)justice system

News Release

Chileans in Solidarity for Indigenous Justice

Chileans in Solidarity for Indigenous Justice (CSIJ), a Seattle-based organization recently created to promote and defend indigenous rights across the Americas, calls for the international condemnation of the prosecution of three Chilean indigenous rights defenders of their ancestral territory –Mapuche tribal members José Tralcal, Luis Tralcal and José Peralino. The Chilean central government has colluded with the justice system to illegally convict these activists for allegedly violating repressive counter-terrorism laws instituted by Chile’s infamous dictator, Augusto Pinochet. They were convicted on May 5, 2018 and face a sentence of life imprisonment. Sentencing is set for Monday, June 11, 2018.

“We call on media outlets to shine the light on this shameful, illegal trial. The Chilean government continues to unjustly persecute its own indigenous people, this time using only manufactured evidence”, stated Abdón Mendoza Mamani, a Chilean member of the Aymara tribe who has lived in Seattle since 1976.

Sebastián Saavedra, one of the defense attorneys for Luis and José Tralcal, states that they “are important activists, defenders of land and water in the Mapuchetribalterritories that were and still are being illegally taken by the Chilean State. That is the reason the Chilean courts are persecuting them by using the counter-terrorist laws that come from Pinochet times, even though these laws have been condemned worldwide, particularly when applied to indigenous peoples”.

“More concretely”, Saavedra goes on, “the central government has lawlessly manipulated the judicial process in depriving them of their human rights”. The defendants rights have been violated in a number of ways, including:

  • Obtaining a confession using torture. The prosecution's case relies heavily on this false confession.

  • The national police’s falsification of evidence to frame the Mapuche activists.

  • The conflict of interest by two of the three judges who are applying for government posts, with the government being the primary plaintiff.

Chileans in Solidarity for Indigenous Justice calls for international solidarity in this important case. Jeff P. Smith, a member of the Makah tribe, executive director of the Nakani Native Program, and member of the CSIJ, asserts that “all the indigenous peoples of the western hemisphere have suffered from countless injustices. Even though Chile is far away from the United States, we must remember that injustice to one is injustice to all. It is incumbent upon all people, indigenous and non-indigenous, to call out injustice and human rights abuses. The least we can do is to make sure that the Chilean government knows that we are concerned with how they treat and mistreat their own indigenous citizens”.

“The Chilean state is terrorizing and repressing its indigenous people with the immoral and illegal criminalization of these three Mapucheactivists”, asserts Felipe Lagos-Rojas, a Chilean national employed as an instructor at Seattle Central College and member of the CSIJ. “The government, legal system and business interests –the whole corporate apparatus– are colluding to take over the Mapuche territory in order to exploit their valuable resources, committing ethnocide all the way through...”

Chileans in Solidarity for Indigenous Justice will organize a gathering for all the interested (Chileans or otherwise) to be held during the next days. To keep yourself posted, visit our facebook page,


A summary account on the trial can be found here:

Further information:

Comments (1)
No. 1-1

Disgusting....! Yet a sign of these times like those seen under Trump and other like minded distorted thought processes.

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