Christmas Femicides Shock Chile

SANTIAGO/VIÑA DEL MAR – Women’s rights groups have expressed anger over two femicides that took place over Christmas weekend. Authorities are still tracking down one of the alleged perpetrators. These murders bring the yearly total to 42.

Two femicides over the Christmas weekend have sparked outrage. The victims were found on Dec. 24 in Viña del Mar and in Santiago’s La Florida district.

So far this year, 42 femicides have occurred in Chile. Activists and authorities have highlighted that the killings indicate a structural problem within the justice system.

The Two Cases

Elsa Muñoz Santana was found dead in her home in Viña del Mar after the apartment had been set on fire by the perpetrator to cover the crime. The suspect is her former partner, Iván Yáñez Sepúlveda, who has been under house arrest while awaiting trial for domestic violence.

The second victim, María Isabel Pavez, was reported missing on Dec. 17. She was found in her ex-partner’s apartment in La Florida. The suspect, Igor González, is still at large. A native Mexican, González has eluded authorities because of his forged immigration papers.

Pavez’s mother has urged the public to refrain from vigilante justice. News outlet Biobió Chile reported her as saying on Monday, “please, if someone knows something about this person, let the PDI [Investigations Police] know, don’t take this into your own hands. I do not want that, otherwise I would have done so myself.”

Read more

The Ámbar Cornejo Case: Another Femicide Shocks Chile

Authorities’ Response

Women Minister Mónica Zalaquett urged collaboration to end femicides and avoid the problem becoming systemic. And Anita Peña, director of the women rights group Corporación Miles, said authorities are focused on punishment rather than prevention.

According to Biobío Chile, independent lawmaker Sandra Amar said Monday the killings “are proof that this system is failing to protect women and their families,” adding, “maybe the way the prosecutors are handling these types of events is not the correct way.”

In response, she advocates creating the Elsa Law which would carry a 72h mandatory detention period for domestic abuse suspects under investigation. Families could then take protective actions.

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