SANTIAGO — This October, hundreds have returned to the streets and started protesting again. The initial motivation to resume last year’s protests was an incident that occurred Oct. 2, when a teenager fell off a bridge after a police officer impacted him. Ximena Chong, the lead prosecutor investigating the incident, has received several death threats causing the National Prosecutor to request government protection.
As many Chileans expected, October has seen an uptick in political tensions and demonstrations. A recent event has also, once again, put the Carabineros (Chile’s national police force) in the spotlight: footage that appears to show a 16-year-old boy being pushed off a bridge by a police officer during the scattering of protesters in Santiago.
The police officer in question has been charged with attempted murder, and the incident is currently under investigation. Ximena Chong, the prosecutor in charge of the investigation, has experienced harassment on social media, as well as in person, and has even received death threats.
Many accuse Chong of being politically motivated and biased. Aside from this investigation, she is also involved in several cases of human rights violations that occurred during last year’s social outburst.
The threats against Chong started after she ordered pre-trial detention for Sebastián Zamora, the police officer accused of pushing the minor off the bridge. Chong was harassed on social media, doxxed, and even received a death-threat letter sent to her home.
Chong also complained about the suspicious presence of three men near her home. One of them was a Carabineros lieutenant colonel, who was later detained by Chile’s Investigations Police and denied being there to harass the prosecutor.
National Prosecutor Asks For Government’s Protection
National Prosecutor Jorge Abbott contacted Interior Minister Víctor Pérez last week after hearing about the numerous threats to Chong and asked for protection for all prosecutors and especially Chong.
Abbott told news outlet La Segunda that the government has precedents, but that the prosecutor’s office expects “concrete actions to ensure the safety of our prosecutors throughout the country.” He emphasized that public prosecutors “cannot be subjected to pressure in the performance of tasks that are based on giving certainty … and need to be carried out with objectivity and transparency.”
Currently, there is an investigation to determine those responsible for the threats and harassment against Chong. Meanwhile, the prosecutor is being escorted by police, and, as she told CNN Chile, she is still working. “I am worried about my family, but I have carried on with my activities as normal.”
Unsympathetic Ears On the Right
In the meantime, Chong gets zero sympathy from Chile’s right-wing politicians. José Antonio Kast, former presidential candidate from the Republican Party, said that Chong “is a left-wing activist who hates Carabineros and does not act impartially.”
Congresswoman Camila Flores, from the National Renovation party (RN), said that it is “logical to question the actions” of the prosecutor and the investigative team behind this case.
Senator Iván Moreira, from the Independent Democratic Union (UDI), told broadcaster 24 Horas that these reactions were normal and that “in a political provocation, one is exposed to these types of threats and can’t victimize oneself … there’s no space for crying in politics.” Moreira’s comments did not sit well with some: three senators said they will denounce him to the Ethics Committee for denying the gravity of the situation.
Fernanda Gándara is currently finishing her journalism degree at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She’s passionate about writing, environmental issues and women empowerment. You can find her on Twitter as @FerGMarchant