Guards call off strike as Chile’s prison system teeters on the brink

SANTIAGO – Gendarmería de Chile, the specialized division responsible for guarding the country’s prisons, threatened but eventually called off a national strike in response to the horrifying conditions of the prison system. Moreover, the functionaries wanted to establish a dialogue about Sergeant Palma, imprisoned for alleged involvement of abuse of two Ecuadorian inmates.

Chile’s prison guard division called off a national strike after justice minister Hernán Larraín entered a dialogue. Gendarmería de Chile asks for a government response to the severe crisis of the prison system. A strike could have pushed the entire prison system over the edge. Guards demand prison modernization and a new structure of the career path, and also the solution of Sergeant Palma’s imprisonment.

According to the Gendarmería website, two Ecuadorians accused (see video below) of a Chilean woman’s murder were transferred to the prison under his watch. There, the two Ecuadorians became victims of torture by other prisoners, which resulted in the accusation against Palma to have allowed this transgression.


The guards, however, argue that the fault is with the institution, not Palma, as the situation exposed the system’s cruelty. Hence, the guards threatened a national strike if justice minister Larraín refused to negotiate a reform. Moreover, the case revealed a lack of proper infrastructure and adequate intervention programs in Chilean prisons.

Larraín had first asked the guards to discuss the problems with other officials, like Claudia Bendeck, who the government appointed to work on the institution’s reform and improvement.
But the minister folded under the guards’ pressure and met with the institution’s representatives. “Minister Larraín promised to stand by the improvement process,” said Andrés Segovia, leader of Gendarmería’s functionaries. Larraín added: “The main point of the agenda is to reform the functionary’s career as soon as possible.”

The Gendarmería’s director will provide regular updates on the process in the coming months.

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