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Mon 30 November 2020
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Carole Concha Bell reports on another atrocity as Chile’s billionaire President Sebastian Piñera allows police violence to return to the horrific levels of the Augusto Pinochet regime

Police violence in Chile has reached a shocking nadir, with reports that two young people, aged 14 and 17, were shot by armed police in the southern city of Talcahuano, in Chile, on Wednesday afternoon.

Witnesses claim that the children who reside in a SENAME – children’s services care home – threw stones at officers on patrol, who then responded by firing pellets into the residence, which was packed with children and care workers.

In Chile’s capital Santiago, hundreds of protestors took to the streets to demand an end to police violence but were met with repression, tear gas and arrests.

“It is reprehensible that nearly 50 years later we are seeing the state’s security forces acting with the same impunity as they did during the dictatorship,” Maria Vasquez-Aguilar, of the UK campaign group Chile Solidarity Network, said. “These crimes are targeted, systematic and in violation of international law on human rights. They have no place in a healthy democracy and the responsibility for them goes all the way to the top of Piñera’s Government.”

Piñera said that he “appreciated and admired” the work of Mario Rozas, the chief of police, and that he had served at an “extraordinarily difficult and complex time”. Rozas has been removed from his position.

Calls for reform are growing ever louder in Chile, but President Pinera has dismissed these – despite human rights abuses occurring during social protests in the past year and the draconian measures imposed during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, Chilean police threw a 16-year-old boy off a bridge into a shallow river leaving him for dead and fired tear gas and pellets at those attempting to rescue him.

Despite the electorate overwhelmingly voting to remove the Constitution adopted by Chile under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet this month, behind the scenes human rights abuses have continued under the guise of pandemic restrictions.

A state of catastrophe has been extended until the end of the year and police regularly carry out violent raids in Santiago’s poorer suburbs, often targeting community kitchens. On 18 October, a young activist, Anibal Villarroel, was killed when police fired on a crowd at a protest marking the anniversary of an uprising in La Victoria suburb, Santiago.

Like much of Chile’s current socio-political infrastructure, the police force has not been reformed since the Pinochet dictatorship. This is despite five international organisations investigating and then condemning widespread police abuses during last year’s social uprising, when more than 400 people suffered eye wounds, thousands were tortured and dozens were sexually abused. More than 2,500 people are still languishing in prison after being arrested at the protests. 

“Impunity has been institutionalised in Chile,” said activist Martin Carmona. “This arises from the amnesty laws emerging from the dictatorship, under the narrative of the ‘enemy within’. Through the transition to democracy, various truth commissions failed to act under the banner of ‘reconciliation’. In Southern Chile, abuses against the Mapuche are committed under the narrative that they are ‘terrorists’. Finally, recent crimes against Chileans during and after the social uprisings also benefit from impunity under the narrative that the victims are delinquents.” 

Reform is not on billionaire President Pinera’s agenda. On the contrary, violence is escalating and Chilean police continue to rampage with absolute impunity.


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