Last week several media outlets speculated about what was the Chilean Mapuche activist Machi Francisa Linconao doing in Bolivia, some even going as far as to speculate she was there looking for political asylum. Machi Linconao then decided to give an interview in which she said she was only on a pleasure trip and denounced continuous harassment from the Chilean government to her community.
“I'm just on vacation. I didn't come here asking the [Bolivian] government for help, as the Chilean press is saying. I was very tired after the two-months and ten-days trial.”
In 2008, Linconao won a trial claiming Mapuche rights over a territory using the Convention C169 of the International Labour Organization, which recognizes the right of all indigenous and tribal peoples of the world to “exercise control over their own institutions, ways of life and economic development and to maintain and develop their identities, languages and religions.”
“I'm the first Machi to use that law and I won the trial against a millionaire land-owner. Since then, every land-owner, every rich person, is mad at me, but they don't tell me that up front,” said Linconao in the interview.
The Machi is a traditional healer and leader figure within the Mapuches. “I was given the healing gift for helping people, not for doing things like the Luchsinger-Mackay case.”
Since 2013, Linconao and other 10 Mapuches have been in and out of prison on charges of killing the Luchsinger-Mackay couple in a fire. She was being accused of organizing the attack in her home along with 30 other people, something she has denied. She claims these accusations are politically motivated and represent discriminatory policies against the Mapuches and their struggle.
Machi Linconao and other 10 Mapuches were freed last October after a court found them innocent of all actions involving the Luchsinger-Mackay case. They had been found innocent before, but the case was recently reopened by statements of key witness Jose Peralino, who later declared his testimony was false and given under threats by the Investigations Police of Chile and the Prosecutor's Office.
This is the second time she goes out of the country, after a short trip to Bariloche, Argentina.
In the interview, she denounces the brutality with which the Chilean police got into her home and fabricated evidence against her, including placing a hand-made shotgun in her house. She says they forced her to take away her head-cover, which represents her status as Machi, a Mapuche healer. In March 2016, Police broke into her house again and arrested her in a similar fashion.
“This was a very long process. I was imprisoned 10 months. I was able to go home four times, but the prosecutor's kept calling me to go back into prison. Every time I went back I got sick, my blood pressure kept going up. I had an eye effusion. I got very sick again and my lawyer got me into the Intercultural Hospital. There I took the decision to do a hunger strike because I didn't have any other option and I was doing everything the judges, the tribunals and the prosecutors told me. I could have died there” Linconao added.
Even though she has been declared innocent twice, the trial is now scheduled to start over on January 26. She stated she will be attending.
“There's no justice for the Mapuche, just for the rich land-owners.” Linconao denounced in the interview.