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Chile: Film-maker arrested after investigating Mapuche land rights story

An investigative documentary film-maker has been detained after investigating a conflict between the Mapuche Indigenous people and lumber companies over the use of land.

Elena Varela López was filming a documentary which she had been researching for four years, when being imprisoned in Rancagua Prison, central Chile. Police charged Elena with ‘illegal association with intent to commit an offence’.

Amnesty International believes that the authorities have arrested her in an attempt to halt investigations into this conflict and to intimidate Elena and the Mapuche Indigenous people.

The arresting officers confiscated equipment from Elena Varela López's home, including videotapes, sound equipment, cameras and mobile phones. They also seized the research and other documents relating to the film.

It is feared that the Chilean security forces could use this information to intimidate and harass Mapuche activists and those who contributed their opinions to the research.

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director, Tim Hancock said:

“Elena Varela López is the third documentary maker since March of this year to be arrested after daring to investigate this ongoing conflict between the lumber companies and the Mapuche people.

“Her arrest is clearly intended to intimidate anyone who dares to speak out against this conflict.”

In previous years, Amnesty International has reported ill-treatment and harassment of the Mapuche by Chilean police, and has publicly criticised the Chilean authorities for using anti-terrorism law against Indigenous community members fighting for their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Tim Hancock continued:

“We remain concerned for the safety of the Mapuche people in Chile, and we would urge the Chilean authorities to guarantee the protection of those who have spoken out in support of the Mapuche people over this ongoing dispute.”

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