SANTIAGO – Mario Rozas has resigned as general director of Carabineros police in the wake of the shooting of two minors. Rozas has always sparked controversy because of the human rights violations police committed under his watch during the social uprising. His successor, general Ricardo Yáñez, will have to put the house in order.
General Mario Rozas, the head of Chile’s Carabineros police has resigned on Thursday over the shooting of two minors in a state foster home in Talcahuano during a police operation. Commenting on the resignation, President Sebastián Piñera said, “I have the utmost appreciation, admiration and gratitude for his work.”
Rozas ascended to the position in 2018, after his predecessor was removed due to the Camilo Catrillanca case, in which Carabineros killed a 24-year-old Mapuche and altered the evidence. Ever since taking charge, Rozas has been criticized for lackluster reform attempts and the human rights abuses committed by police during the social uprising.
Ricardo Yáñez will succeed Rozas and have to deal with numerous investigations, scandals, and growing public discontent.
Mario Rozas: A Career Behind the Desk
Rozas hails from a Carabineros family. His father was a sub-officer, his two brothers are Carabineros and his wife is a colonel. He started his career in the drug crime department and then moved to the communications department.
This position made him the nexus between the government and the Carabineros, during Piñera’s first term. It seemed natural to appoint him as Carabineros chief after his predecessor Hermes Soto resigned due to the Camilo Catrillanca case. At 51, Rozas became the youngest Carabineros chief in the institution’s history.
The leader was criticized for his lack of field experience, with some Carabineros even saying he got the job only because of his closeness to Piñera, weekly The Clinic reported.
His handling of the protests during the social uprising turned Rozas into a polarizing figure, as the human rights institute (INDH) and various international organizations exposed human rights violations at the hands of Carabineros, specifically related to the use of non-lethal weapons.
Eye mutilations soared during the protests. Carabineros caused ocular damage to 347 protesters, rivaling the figure of Kashmir, where the Indian military engaged in a crackdown and intentionally inflicted eye damage to discourage protests but avoid casualties. Overall, the INDH registered over 3,440 protesters injured by police. Several claims of torture and sexual assault are still being investigated.
But Rozas was defiant. In a leaked WhatsApp voice message, published by news outlet Biobío Chile, Rozas said, “you have all the support … from this general director. How do I prove this? I will not fire anyone under police procedures. No one. Even if they force me [to do so], I am not going to do it.”
Via CNNChile, Carabineros later backpedalled, saying Rozas meant nobody would be fired “without due process.”
Since then, Rozas has pursued some reforms, most of them targeted at the special forces responsible for crowd control. Other reforms included an overhaul of the manuals and public order control protocols to streamline them with international human rights standards.
But ultimately these reforms came only slowly and could not save Rozas.
Diego Rivera is currently a senior in University, finishing up his audiovisual degree. You can find him on Twitter as @Piover45.