Coronavirus in Chile Social Crisis

Government Seeks to Reform Intelligence Agency Amid Pandemic

SANTIAGO – The executive branch is prioritizing a new bill to reform the National Intelligence System in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. This act has received harsh criticism from the opposition. The Law’s aim is to prevent unrest like that which occurred in October 2019.

The executive branch of the government is prioritizing a bill to reform the National Intelligence System (SIE). The bill was originally created as a response to the October 2019 unrest, but due to its slow process through Congress, the executive branch has now forced Congress to prioritize the bill over all others.

The bill seeks to modernize the SIE and create an advisory board that reports directly to and is headed by the president and several ministers. The board would be made up of the National Intelligence Agency (ANI) and representatives of Chile’s various police forces, army intelligence, customs, and tax service. It also forces collaboration among the different agencies which normally are more autonomous.

The project would also allow for the deployment of the armed forces without the need to have a State of Exception. This would mean that the to be created commission can use military intelligence against all groups that they consider to “threaten public order”, and send in armed forces to take out these threats.

It would also give more power to ANI, by creating a new sub-director position tasked with coordinating with the armed forces to create preventive measures in accordance with intelligence reports (currently, the intelligence agency gathers information and hands it over to other authorities for action). Lastly, it would establish administrative sanctions for those who choose to omit vital information from other agencies.

The Minister of Defense, Alberto Espina, said of the bill, “This means that we will be protected from threats both external and internal, that try to disturb the peace and security of the country.” He added, “If we had had a modernized Intelligence system, the acts of violence that occurred in October would have been prevented.”

Critics of the Bill

Opposition parties condemn the pursuit of the bill at this time – in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. Representative Maya Fernández of the Socialist Party tweeted, “It is regrettable that the president still doesn’t understand what the priorities are in Chile.”

The Chilean Human Rights Commission also took to social media to express its concern: “The contents of the proposed modifications, seem to be created to ensure that the current system could stop and neutralize the Oct. 18 protests and not to create the modern intelligence system needed for the 21st century.” The Commission added the current project would lay the bases of a police state.

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