Chilean environmental rights defender receives death threat
Following a movement that started in 2011 to advocate for education reforms, thousands of Chilean students took the streets in Santiago and other cities to continue their demands for quality and free higher education and the end to students ‘debts. This was the first march in 2017 after a series of large protests that took place in 2016. As in previous opportunities documented in the Monitor, the demonstration ended with a violent response from the Police that used tear-gas and water cannons to disperse protestors.
The Confederación de Estudiantes de Chile (Confederation of Students of Chile) (Confech) and Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Chile (Federation of University Students of Chile) (FECH) convoked the demonstration to demand the government the cancellation of all debts under State Credit program, after the administration of President Michelle Bachelet reiterated that there would not be a student loan forgiveness and ended all negotiations on the issue.The organisations called for another march on 25th May.
In a recent report published by CIVICUS, covering the students movement in Chile, 88% of the respondents to the survey expressed that the “movement was subject to unwarranted limitations and restrictions by the state on the right to protest” and 87% reported “excessive use of force and the arbitrary arrest of protesters”
Members of the local organisation Movimiento de Defensa por el Acceso al Agua, la Tierra y Protección del Medio Ambiente (Defence Movement of Earth, Environmental Protection and Access to Water) (MODATIMA) are being threatened due to their work in the defence of access to water in the province of Petorca.
On 28th March, human rights defender Rodrigo Mundaca Cabrera, an active member of MODATIMA, received a death threat by phone from an unidentified person. He and other members of MODATIMA had been subject to threats in previous years. Another member of MODATIMA, Verónica del Carmen Vilches Olivares, previously received threats with the last one being made as recently as 10th March 2017. Both activists were part of a documentary in which they denounced the illegal use of water by corporations.
Amnesty Chile has initiated an advocacy campaign around this situation and the case is also included in Amnesty International's “Defend the Brave” campaign which encourages people to “[s]ign the petition and call on the Minister of Interior and Public Security, Mario Fernández Baeza, to investigate these death threats and provide human rights defenders with the security and protection they need.”