SANTIAGO – Chilean police will begin to investigate crime outbreaks by organized groups of soccer fans known as barras bravas. In particular, they aim to prosecute people who violate or threaten to break the “Gun Law.” This follows a number of violent incidents at soccer stadiums in the last two years.
Barras bravas, translated to fierce gangs, are organized groups of fanatical soccer fans who attend games at stadiums and are known for waving large flags, raucous chanting, and sometimes inciting violence against rival barras bravas.
Police aim to eliminate the disruptive actions of these groups by preventing certain members from entering soccer stadiums, submitting background information to public prosecutors, and arresting those who commit illegal acts.
The head of the Department of Criminal Organization Investigation (OS-9), Colonel Juan Francisco González, explained that “if we have information about certain people who are entering the stadium, the respective procedure will be taken, alerting the police who are in the place. This so that they exercise the controls within the corresponding legal framework.”
Police officers will act under the protection of the “Gun Law” to disband these groups on the grounds of bearing arms and the unauthorized use of pyrotechnic devices such as fireworks.
From 2015 to 2017, 294 people were arrested for various disorderly crimes in sports venues, and 40% of those arrested were convicted.
One of the most infamous cases of violence in a soccer stadium took place in December 2015 in Valparaíso. Fans of Colo-Colo and Wanderers began brawling in the stands and on the pitch before the teams even began playing. The game was canceled due to the severity of the battle. People were stabbed and shot.
As another example, on August 25, 2018, during a game between Colo-Colo and Universidad de Chile at Monumental Stadium, members of Garra Blanca (White Force), the group supporting Colo-Colo, launched fireworks meters away from Universidad de Chile goalkeeper Johnny Herrera.
More recently, on September 5, 2019, police arrested five people for sending death threats to the manager of team Azul Azul, Felipe de Pablo. Of the five, four had prior arrest and detention records, including one for negligent homicide.
Matías Walker, a parliamentarian for the Christian Democrats, said “it is a public and notorious fact that much of the disputes within the barras bravas do not occur because of leadership contests within the group of sport supporters, but because of the monopoly, for example, of drug trafficking.”
Ana Truesdale is a British student, studying Liberal Arts at Durham Univeristy, who is currently interning at Chile Today on her year abroad. She has a strong interest in Latin American culture and journalism and wishes to experience all that Chile has to offer.