Here’s my latest blog for Huffington Post UK:
While World Cup qualification is arguably the most prominent thing in most Chilean and Welsh people’s minds right now, the two countries have another topic of conversation in common: organ donation.
Chile and Wales are the two latest countries to vote in favour of introducing the controversial opt-out organ donation system, where individuals are presumed to have given consent for their organs to be donated unless they choose to opt out.
Wales made history in July this year when it became the first country in the UK to adopt the system in a bid to counteract a shortage of organ donors. The new law, which is due to come into force in 2015, aims to increase the number of organs available in Wales by around 25%.
Just the previous month Chilean President Sebastián Piñera signed into law an amendment to convert the country’s existing opt-in system – la Ley de Donante Universal, which was first adopted in 2010 – into an opt-out system.
Published on 07-09-13. Read on here
Behind the headlines of the ongoing turmoil of Los 33 lies a news story in Chile that has failed to gain much local or international media attention.
For the last two months, 34 indigenous Mapuche prisoners all over the country have been on a large-scale hunger strike and many are now in a critical state of health, some losing up to 20kg. Although imprisoned for their actions during a dispute over ancestral land in the Araucanía region, in the south of Chile, the main cause for protest is the prisoners’ objection to being detained and charged under anti-terrorism laws.
As Uruguayan journalist Raúl Zibechi pointed out earlier this week, the remnants of Pinochet’s dictatorship continue to plague the Mapuches, with the counter-terrorism legislation that he enacted in 1984 still enabling the modern day government to charge them as terrorist suspects and trial them in military courts.
Despite Mapuche actions being repeatedly ignored and their actions quashed, four left-wing congressmen (members of the opposition) joined the hunger strike in a surprise act of solidarity last Thursday. Bowing to pressure and in an effort to pacify the protestors, that very same evening President Sebastián Piñera introduced measures to revise the legislation. Yet there is still little evidence to show that the government is willing to actively engage in discussions with the Mapuche or that it is open to the idea of implementing deeper, longer lasting reforms.
Originally designed to draw international attention to their plight, the Mapuche hunger strike has sparked off a stream of solidarity protests across the world. In Chile itself, up until now the protest has been downplayed by the media and the government. Rather than a change in heart, it is likely that Piñera’s sudden haste to amend the legislation has much more to do with preventing the protest from tainting next week’s celebrations for Chile’s bicentennial of independence. It remains to be seen whether the Mapuches will gain the recognition that they deserve.