In Chile, during the first week of a hunger strike that began in late May, the numbers of fasters more than doubled.
In Chile, during the first week of a hunger strike that began in late May, the numbers of fasters more than doubled. Originally, there were 69 strikers, the relatives of mission people whom, they contend, were arrested by the Chilean secret police. Within days their numbers had grown to one hundred and forty-one people.
SYNOPSIS: This is the Church of Jesus Obrero (pronounced. HAY_SOOS OBRAYRO) in the Chilean capital of Santiago. It is one of three churches, as well as the local UNICEF headquarters, where the fasting was taking place.
Father Gustavo Ferraris makes a statement about the strike. The women fasters were resting to conserve their strength. Most were wives of missing men. Each woman was wearing a photograph of her husband. Journalists who spoke with the fasters reported that they were determined to continue their protest until the military junta of General Agusto Pinochet revealed what had happened to the men. This fast followed another that was held in the Church of San Francisco in Santiago last December by eighty-seven relatives of missing persons. This earlier protest had come in the wake of a United Nations resolution which had condemned General Pinochet's government for human rights violations.
During the first week, the original fasters were joined by eleven nuns and seven priests, as well as thirty-eight lay members of Christian communities. Some protestors needed constant medical attention, and four were reported to have lapsed in to shock. Confined to a purely liquid diet, the women lost an average of eleven lbs (4.99 kilograms) each in the first week.
The women were receiving moral support. Sixteen Chilean trade unions, representing more than a million workers, issued a declaration that they were backing the hunger strikes. And, on May the 30th, some thirty-one political prisoners in jail in Santiago joined the fasting in sympathy.
The trade unions had gone publicly behind the cause because many of the missing men were union leaders. Meanwhile, the government newspaper El Cronista claimed the protest was manoeuvred by two organisations: the United States Central Intelligence Agency and the Chilean church body, Vicaria de la Solidaridad. Their aim, said the newspaper, was to destabilise the regime.