Inter-American Commission on Human Rights:

Chief Juana Calfunao Paillalef Receives Unprecedented Support from International Community in the USA

Press Release - 22th October, 2015


Lonko (Chief) Juana Calfunao participated, under the 156 session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the International Organization of American States in Washington on October 19, 2015, in the Regional Thematic Hearing on Defenders and the Criminalization of Human Rights defenders and indigenous leaders in Latin America. In this hearing several testimonies exposed the direct consequences of the intervention of investment projects in indigenous territories throughout the Americas. The common denominator of these statements was that of the role of the states of the continent in protecting the interests of transnational corporations over those of their own citizens, including that of the use of their legal and police apparatus used to criminalize and prosecute the demands of the aforementioned legitimate protestors to protect their territories.

Chief Juana Calfunao reported to the IAHRC regarding the violation of land rights and the lack of consultation by state of Chile in relation to the construction of the ‘Los Laureles’ road - Lake Colico - passing through the lands of their community, thus, dividing and destroying sacred territory. She spoke of the long history of violence and criminalization which has been applied to the community and to the Chief’s, and in particular to her family over four generations, referring to repeated arrests, detentions, attacks against their property, arson attacks on their houses and torture inflicted upon them on them by the police. Her harrowing testimony caused a great impact on the members of the Commission as well as upon the attendant audience, arousing international solidarity for this case. The Lonko (Chief) additionally requested precautionary measures to protect their rights and those of her family while the merits of her case are being considered by the commission.

The Lonko’s (Chief’s) intervention before the Commission also sought to reflect the situation of vulnerability in which many, both Mapuche and non-Mapuche families find themselves in the Araucanían region. The region is currently being heavily infiltrated by transnational companies operating to the detriment of the traditional indigenous communities who reside there by such development projects, whom encourage the processes of criminalization of their legitimate right to protest by the State of Chile which actively seeks to protect the illicit interests and activities of these companies.

In addition to the interventions made during the Thematic Hearing, Chief Juana Calfunao and the team of lawyers, including the Lonko’s lawyer, Juan Jorge Faundes Peñafiel and Peruvian lawyer Raquel Yrigoyen Fajardo, have granted several interviews and participated in hearings with commissioners IACHR, and with Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples of the Committee.

They have also held various technical meetings with teams of lawyers from the IACHR. In parallel, the Lonko is conducting a full agenda with various human rights organizations, representatives of indigenous peoples in the United States and other bodies such as the "Council on Hemispheric Affairs," and "Amnesty International", as well as with the Media Forum, Washington Hispanic Press and with different groups of students in the city’s colleges and universities.

Chief Juana Calfunao wishes to convey her sense of deepest gratitude for the support of many individuals located in both the USA and in Europe, especially to those who assisted in the organization of her own and her legal team’s stay in Washington DC and for their hospitality. She would also like to acknowledge the efforts of many caring people to the cause of indigenous peoples and of the press and human rights organizations in Washington.


Juan Paillalef Community



Back to top