SANTIAGO – A series of violent incidents at Chilean high schools has politicians debating whether identity control and preventive rucksack checks should be authorized. Earlier security measures, targeting minors and students, have already faced heavy opposition in Chile. Student organizations fear that these controls have a contrary effect.
On Monday morning, a student at a high school in southern Puerto Montt shot a classmate with a gun he allegedly stole from his grandfather. The shooter was arrested, and the victim was rushed to a hospital. Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick was quick to give the school shooting a political touch by pointing to the legislation the Piñera government is trying to push through regarding preventive control for minors.
In March, President Piñera presented a series of changes that allow police forces to stop and request identification from anyone age 14 and older, regardless of whether he or she is suspected of committing a crime. Although these changes are currently being discussed in Congress, 24 Horas reported today that so far in 2019 already 11,000 minors have been preventively checked for identity.
Instituto Nacional And The Aula Segura
Several hundred kilometers to the north, students of Santiago high school Instituto Nacional clashed with Carabineros who stopped an unauthorized march. Students started to throw stones, and Carabineros reacted by having a special anti-riot unit storm the school building. Eleven students were arrested, and three police officers were injured. It wasn’t a stand-alone incident: for weeks, students of the school have been protesting the use of the so-called “Aula Segura” law.
This law was promulgated in late December 2018, after months of protests and heavy debating. It gives school directors the immediate power to temporarily suspend or permanently expel students involved in violent acts. The Chilean Senate rejected the law at first, stating it was “unconstitutional,” as the law doesn´t guarantee an honest process for students expelled.
Students at the Instituto Nacional say that “the more police presence in the establishments, the more confrontations are going to happen. For every student that gets expelled because of Aula Segura, ten others will stand up.”
Everything For Safe(r) Streets
Where the school shooting in Puerto Montt was used by Minister Chadwick to call upon the Chilean Congress to let the preventive control legislation pass, the Instituto Nacional clashes go back to other already passed but similar legislation, focusing on security measures targeting students and minors—security measures that are facing strong opposition, not only from students but also in Congress, as the new laws and projects are seen as ways to tighten the grip of the State on the Chilean society.
This is because the changes to the Identity Control Law, as well as the Aula Segura law, can all be traced back to Piñera’s broad “Safe Streets” project. The project seeks to implement a series of security measures in Chilean society, such as facial recognition cameras on street corners, mass surveillance technology, and the (already used) drones and hot-air balloons, equipped with cameras.
The Safe Streets project, the Aula Segura law, and the proposed changes to the Identity Control Law are all repressive, intrusive ways of targeting problems, without looking at what’s behind these problems. Or, as experts said in an earlier response to the Aula Segura law: “These are forms of segregation, with purely punitive logic, without looking for a real solution.”
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.