A bill that raises the penalties for breaching the new quarantine rules was approved by the Chilean Senate on Tuesday, June 16. The bill passed only after an intense debate. As the spread of Covid-19 in Chile seems almost unstoppable, however, the government is trying to keep people inside by all possible means.
The most severe increase that a new quarantine penalties bill contains is the penalty for a serious breach of the quarantine rules, which is raised from between 3 and 18 months to up to 3 years of imprisonment. In the case of milder violations, fines may range between CLP$300,000 and CLP$10 million – or almost US$ 370 to over US$12,000. Ultimately, if intent can be proved, for example in the case of organizing parties or other events, sanctions can reach up to 5 years of imprisonment combined with fines up to the equivalent of almost US$15,500.
The bill passed the Chilean Senate on Tuesday, June 16, with 32 senators voting in favor, 5 against, and 4 abstaining. The voices against came from opposition groups like Frente Amplio, the Communist Party, and the Socialist Party. They claimed that the bill criminalizes already vulnerable groups in Chilean society that depend on the informal economy to sustain their living. “People had to go out to survive, and we have to be very careful with raising penalties,” argued Isabel Allende Bussi from the Socialist Party during the debate.
Parties from the government coalition Chile Vamos, however, maintained that people are still too lenient and that further discouragement to go out on the streets is necessary. Several references were made during the debate to a major scandal over Easter, when several millionaires escaped the Santiago lockdown with private helicopters.
The penalties are raised as Chile is now one of the countries worst hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. In an attempt to stem the still-increasing number of infections, the Chilean government has made the quarantine measures both more intense and more extensive. Over 50% of the population is now in quarantine and people are only allowed to leave their house two times a week. This latest bill functions as a complement to those measures.
Pelle is currently interning at Chile Today. He is a Dutch postgraduate student at Leiden University specialized in Latin American international relations. Previously, he studied at the Universidad de Chile in Santiago.