Boric pardons for protesters cause political upheaval

Chile’s president pardoned 12 inmates linked to the social uprising of 2019. They were convicted for rioting and attacking police. Opposition members were incensed and withdrew from a national security roundtable.

On Dec. 30, 2022, President Gabriel Boric pardoned 12 prisoners, convicted for their participation in the 2019 protests, sparking fiery criticism.

The protests, locally known as estallido social, originated in Santiago after one of many regular subway fare increases was implemented. It involved riots and confrontations between protesters and security forces. The military was deployed in several cities. More than 30 people died, thousands were injured and detained, and countless structures were damaged or destroyed.

Siding with the protesters, Boric pledged during his presidential campaign a general amnesty for those detained, but once in office he imposed certain eligibility criteria.

Overall, 12 prisoners between the ages of 21 and 38 were pardoned, convicted for looting, robbing, throwing Molotov cocktails, or attacking police.

Additionally, Boric pardoned Jorge Mateluna, a former guerilla who did not take part in the protests. During the dictatorship, Mateluna was member of the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front, but he was serving a 16-year sentence for bank robbery. Mateluna, however, claimed the conviction was based on false evidence and a faulty judicial process.

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In a statement, the Communist Party said the pardons “vindicate social protest.” The families of the detainees also thanked Boric.

Senator Fabiola Campillai, who, as a mere bystander, was blinded during a protest after being targeted by a police officer, tweeted, “it was a tremendous struggle and a long road that mothers and families had to travel to reach freedom. I thank our President Gabriel Boric for granting pardons to our prisoners as a humanitarian act and as promised when the government took office.”

Opposition coalition Chile Vamos withdrew from a national security roundtable to protest the pardons.

“The signals are important and obviously the security roundtable is suspended from this moment. President, these pardons were not necessary, are not fair, and are not a priority,” lawmaker Jorge Alessandri was quoted as saying by newspaper La Nación.

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