SANTIAGO – Various members of Chile’s opposition parties have presented a new bill that aims to abolish laws that are considered repressive. Among the targets are the controversial State Security Law and the recent Anti-Looting Law. The representatives promoting the bill said that these laws have political motivations and are used arbitrarily.
Chilean representatives from several different opposition parties presented a new anti-repression agenda. First on their list is a bill that seeks to eliminate laws that are deemed repressive and that have been used arbitrarily by the executive power. Among those laws are the State Security Law, created to suppress social protests, and the Anti-looting Law, which allows any type of protest to be punishable if the government interprets it as an act of violence. Lastly, the bill would abolish the Preventive Identity Check Law, which allows authorities to stop and check the identity of anyone they suspect is participating in illegal activities.
The bill was created by the Frente Amplio coalition, with support from the Communist Party, Socialist party, and Party for Democracy. This is only the first step in the coalition’s new anti-repression agenda, which also includes the creation of a special committee to gather security experts and social organizations to debate and create a new less repressive Public Security Plan.
The State Security Law was created in 1958, ostensibly to penalize serious attempts at violence against the government. From its very inception, however, it was deemed an authoritarian law, because it relies on the executive power to decide when and where to apply it, and it has been used to criminalize social protests.
It gained notoriety on Oct. 18, 2019, when President Sebastián Piñera used the law to punish individuals the government deemed responsible for the riots, arson, and other destruction that accompanied the protests. The executive power even used it against students who boycotted the 2019 PSU exams.
The Anti-Looting Law was signed into law in 2019, in the direct aftermath of the Oct. 18 social protests. Controversial when it first passed, the bill was deemed repressive because of vague language that allows authorities to detain protesters for numerous reasons and that broadly states that any type of protest or action is punishable if the government interprets it as an act of violence or something that violates public order.
The Preventive Identity Check law was passed in September 2019. It allows police officers to conduct an identity check on anyone over the age of 14, and it even allows them to check a person’s clothing and belongings if the authorities suspect them of criminal behavior.
Debate in Congress
One of the main supporters of the law is Congresswoman Maite Orsini of the Democratic Revolution Party. During a press conference she said, “What we seek it to abolish unnecessary laws that have only infringed fundamental rights of public order; they discriminate and have been used with political motives. We are working on bettering democracy; in conclusion, we seek a more democratic and modern state.”
Congressman Luciano Cruz-Coke of the Evópoli Party criticized the bill: “This violence is useful to the Frente Amplio for political reasons.” He dared the coalition to go “present this idea directly to those who live in the area and who have not, for over a year, lived in peace [as a result of] having their commerce and public infrastructure destroyed every Friday.”