Human Rights NATIONAL

Carabineros Withdraw Academy Name-Change After Outcry

SANTIAGO — Yesterday, Aug. 19, a document was leaked stating that Chilean police had decided to name the Police Sciences Academy after Rodolfo Stange. When the Allende administration was overthrown, Stange was a high-ranking officer and a delegate of the military committee which carried out the coup d’etat. After receiving backlash from politicians and civilians, police officials  announced today that they would retract their decision.

On Aug. 19, congressman Leonardo Soto shared a Chilean police cable that revealed director-general Mario Rozas had decided to name the Police Sciences Academy in honor of Rodolfo Stange. The document states that the decision is based on Stange being “an outstanding figure to the institution”, as he was a police colonel.

The decision triggered controversy both in political and civilian arenas, and was intensely discussed on social media. The outrage was over the role he played in the Pinochet-led dictatorship. Three decades after the military rule ended, the country is still recovering, and political and civil society are very much divided over the violation of human rights committed in the country from 1973 until 1990.

After an outpour of criticism, including politicians demanding director-general Rozas’ resignation, the Police Communications Department announced today that they would go back on that decision. In the statement, police officials said their decision to not name the academy after Stange was due to the “spirit that seeks to deepen our bond with citizens.”

The Past Of Rodolfo Stange

The controversy over director-general Rozas’ decision does not come as a surprise. For years now, Chileans have been demanding that those responsible for the atrocities committed under military rule be brought to justice. That demand was deeply felt in  last year’s protests.

Rodolfo Stange was a high-ranking police officer and politician, better known for his role as a member of the military junta between 1985 and 1990. He was also accused of covering up several human rights abuses during Pinochet’s dictatorship, although he was never convicted of any crime.

A case that resonates with Chileans, and could have added fuel to the fire following the police announcement, is the “Caso Degollados” or beheadings. In 1985, three left-wing men were kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by the Police Communications Directorate. At the time, Rodolfo Stange was the director-general of the institution.

Stange was accused of obstruction of justice and breach of military duties for his responsibility in the death of the three men. In 1994, the then-president Eduardo Frei asked for Stange’s resignation, but he refused, and voluntarily quit a year later.

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Reactions to Academy Name Choice

Several reactions were voiced yesterday after the announcement to name the academy after  Rodolfo Stange. One of them came from the director of the National Institute for Human Rights, Sergio Micco, who criticized the Chilean police force and assured CNN Chile that “Rodolfo Stange is a man who divides Chileans. And, after the serious human rights violations since October last year, this is very bad news.”

Estela Ortiz, widow of José Manuel Parada – one of the victims in the “Caso Degollados” – told El Desconcierto that she felt “hopeless, hurt, and outraged. They ask us to forgive, but how can we? Carabineros is not helping to reconcile the country, from time to time, they carry out provocative actions that only divide Chile.

On the other hand, senator for the Independent Democratic Union Jacqueline Van Rysselberghe, said that there was no reason why this should become a political issue. “Stange was an important person in the history of Carabineros,” she said to Biobio news network.

Other members of parliament, like Carmen Hertz and Daniel Núñez, said they would call on Interior Minister Víctor Pérez and police director-general Mario Rozas for a special session in parliament, on Sept. 1, to discuss the decision to name the academy after Stange. After police officials announced they would not follow through on the decision, Daniel Núñez tweeted that Rozas “the denier” should still resign.

Edited by Claudio Moraga

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