New Flank Opened Against Boric: Sectors of the Left Question Recent Police Repression in Chile

By Francisco Bravo Atias  –  Apr 1, 2022

“We came from the mobilizations. Thanks to them we are here and we will not forget that,” said the president of Chile, Gabriel Boric, in front of thousands of supporters on the balcony of the seat of government, the Palace of La Moneda, during his inauguration on March 11.

For this reason, many leftists and leaders of social organizations were disconcerted by the images recorded on March 18. Only a week after Boric took office , there was a demonstration in Plaza Italia (also called Plaza Dignidad) that brought together, like every Friday, relatives of the prisoners of the social uprising and the victims of human rights violations.

Carabineros (militarized police) began to repress the demonstrators. A video circulated of a group of policemen who chased and tackled a young protester, who hit his head and was left unconscious. After being treated at a health center, it was found that the young man suffered various injuries, though none of them were life-threatening.

“Unprecedented levels of repression,” tweeted Daniel Jadue, former presidential candidate for the Communist Party, and one of the main leaders of the left. Jadue noted that the government is ultimately responsible for monitoring and controlling the police, and intervening if police forces violate human rights. “Do not disappoint the people!” added Jadue.

Jadue’s Communist Party is part of Boric’s official coalition, Approve Dignity, and several of Jadue’s ministers and collaborators are active in this party, including the government spokesperson, Camila Vallejo.

In turn, the left-wing lawyer Luis Mariano Rendón sued the Carabineros, accusing them of excessive use of force and denial of aid. The local media reported that this marked the first lawsuit for excessive repression in the administration of the Approve Dignity coalition.

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On Friday, March 25, another grievance was registered against the Boric administration in La Moneda, but with much stronger images. The image of a man bleeding as a result of a bullet received in the chest began to spread on social media platforms, and later the news outlet PiensaPrensa published a video where it is seen that the shooter was a Carabinero.

The situation was complex, since it was not a rubber bullet of the kind fired by anti-riot shotguns, but rather a real bullet, fired from a firearm. The version given by the police was that a group of protesters was attacking the Carabinero, who used his service pistol to repel the mob by firing into the air.

The problem? The victim, who fortunately was treated in time and is out of life-threatening danger, is a 19-year-old boy who was not even protesting and who at that time was working as a delivery man.

This week, Boric’s third week in the presidency, the Day of the Young Combatant commemorated two young people assassinated during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), a date on which protests and incidents occur each year.

And again, questions about police action
Social leaders of Lo Hermida, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the capital, posted videos on social media and denounced a “Zorrillo”—as the Carabineros‘ tear-gas launching armored vehicles are commonly called—that burst into the community without any provocation, while a peaceful event was taking place with children reciting poetry.

The constituent Ericka Portilla of the Communist Party, in conversation with Sputnik Agency on the subject, said that “there has been a mistake in the actions of the Carabineros, who have applied excessive use of force in numerous demonstrations since the government of President Gabriel Boric was installed.”

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“The fact that what came from the previous government continues, shows a way of acting that in practice is consolidated as a repression of the community that organizes and manifests itself,” she said. “The general director of the Carabineros, Ricardo Yáñez, should be asked to resign.”

Along the same lines, Alondra Carrillo, representative of the social movements that emerged during the 2019 social uprising, told Sputnik that “what has been seen in these first weeks is totally contradictory to a government that defined itself as feminist—repressing the legitimate protests of high school students, and even breaking up events commemorating important dates.”

“On the one hand, we have a police force that continues to repress just like when [former president Sebastián] Piñera was in La Moneda [2018-2022], and on the other, a government that, faced with these events, does not call for respect for the right to demonstrate, or try to contain police violence,” Carrillo said.

Faced with the growing wave of criticism against police action, on Tuesday, March 29, the administration broke its silence through the Minister of the Interior, Izkia Siches, who said at a press conference: “the Carabineros have our full support, of all our ministries, to continue with their work to protect Chilean men and women.”

Refoundation or reform
After a murder committed by Carabineros in 2021 against a juggler in the south, Gabriel Boric, who was a deputy at the time, wrote on Twitter that the institution had to be refounded: “We have demanded this for more than a year. It does not matter who holds the government. Piñera is an active accomplice in this madness.”

The concept of refoundation was repeated in Boric’s speech until his presidential campaign began to gain momentum, and slowly the story mutated until the concept changed. Today, the president speaks of “reforming” the Carabineros, which implies making changes without starting from scratch, a concept that Minister Siches and the Undersecretary of the Interior, Manuel Monsalve, also use in their speeches.

Adding complexity to the controversies surrounding repression of recent protests, Boric’s  Minister of National Assets, Javiera Toro, tweeted that it was “very serious what happened in the student march. Protection of public order must always be exercised with respect for human rights. In addition to individual responsibilities, refounding the Carabineros is a priority for our government.”

In the government program that Boric presented during his campaign last year there was talk of “refounding,” including proposals such as: modernizing the training process of the police in the field of human rights, modifying the criteria for promotions prioritizing merit before seniority, increasing the percentage of women who enter, creating a civil control system, prohibiting the use of weapons by retired officials, generating effective action plans in priority neighborhoods, and writing protocols for the responsible use of police technologies.

 

Featured image: Chilean President Gabriel Boric. Photo: Reuters/Ivan Alvarado.

(Mundo Sputnik)

Translation: Orinoco Tribune

OT/JRE/SL/EF

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