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Some 50 prisoners in Chile's High Security Prison (CAS) and seven women prisoners being held in the San Miguel Men's Prison remain on a hunger strike that started Jan. 13 [see Update #366]. On Feb. 6, police used tear gas to break up a demonstration in Santiago by relatives of the prisoners. The relatives staged the demonstration after one of the commanders of the prison guard, a man with the last name Veloso, denied that Justice Minister Jose Antonio Gomez had authorized relatives to send packages of food to the prisoners.

Gomez announced the move a day earlier, but Veloso insisted he had not received any communication from the Justice Ministry about the change in policy. The right to receive food sent by relatives was one of the key privileges revoked by prison authorities - along with family visits, use of the prison patio, and work programs - in retaliation against the political prisoners after four imprisoned members of the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front (FPMR) escaped via helicopter in a dramatic breakout from a CAS patio on Dec. 30 [see Update #362].

The Chilean Doctors Association has expressed its concern for the health of the hunger strikers. [posted 2/7/97 on "Prisioneros Politicos de Chile" web site at]

Alberto Espinoza, a lawyer for the political prisoners, says their health "is getting increasingly delicate and they are in very serious condition". Espinoza says some of the hunger strikers have "problems of dehydration, of kidney functioning, and there is a significant loss of weight." [Diario Las Americas 2/8/97 from EFE]

In statements published in the daily La Tercera on Feb. 2, Socialist Party deputy Jaime Naranjo called on the Chilean government to establish dialogue with the country's revolutionary groups.

"It is absolutely necessary that negotiations be established with these groups to seek their reintegration into the democratic system", said Naranjo, who serves on the Chamber of Deputies' Human Rights Commission. "If we continue leaving them on the margin, they will have no other option than these types of actions, which in my opinion don't reflect a reforming or any type of mass politics but rather, simply, acts of survival." [Network of Relatives and Friends of the Political Prisoners, posted on web site]

Note: Elias Letelier Ruz, the coordinator of the Network of Relatives and Friends of the Political Prisoners who maintains the web site mentioned above, lives in exile in Ottawa, Canada [La Tercera "Reportajes" 1/12/97], not in Chile, as was implied in last week's Update #366.

(Source: Weekly News Update On The Americas #367 - February 9, 1997)

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