SANTIAGO – Amid Chile’s ongoing social crisis, the president has announced a new security agenda to address riots and looting, as well as those who attack government agents. Some welcome the agenda as a tool to restore order. Others see it as just one more insult, a superficial remedy that treats only the symptoms and not the cause—the public’s unmet demands.
Yesterday, Nov. 7, standing with new Interior Minister Gonzalo Blumel and Sub-Secretary Rodrigo Ubilla, President Sebastián Piñera announced new safety measures and protocols for riot control.
As reported by Cooperativa, the new bill focuses on the Ley Antiencapuchados and Ley Antisaqueos, which would toughen punishments for those involved in looting, riots, and other disorderly conduct.
Among other things, rioters would face enhanced punishments if they cover their faces or attempt to hide their identities while committing such acts, or if they build barricades.
The intelligence and surveillance systems of the Carabineros (police) and Investigations Police (PDI) would also be improved, including enhanced aerial surveillance.
A team of lawyers for the Interior Ministry would also be tasked to identify and prosecute those who commit such acts; and a second team for the Prosecution Office, the police, and the PDI would focus on intelligence and surveillance.
According to the president, another measure would increase punishments for those who attempt to harm government agents, including the police and PDI, on the job.
During his announcement, the president also convened the National Security Council (Cosena). Some see this as an ominous sign, because, under the Constitution, the president is only supposed to convene Cosena for “their opinion regarding any fact, act or matter that, in his opinion, seriously undermines the foundations of the institutional framework or may compromise national security,” as reported by Publimetro.
- The President of the Republic.
- The president of each bicameral house of legislators (Senators and Representatives).
- The President of the Supreme Court.
- The Commanders-in-Chief of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force.
- The General Director of the Police.
- The Comptroller General of the Republic.
- And, at the president’s discretion, the Ministers of the Interior and Public Security, National Defense, Foreign Relations, and Economy.
The last time Cosena was convened was in 2014 by President Piñera, in order to analyze the Hague ruling in the Peruvian maritime lawsuit, as also reported by Publimetro in the article above.
It remains to be seen what will come of the Cosena meeting. In the meantime, a debate rages as to the proposed security agenda. Some, including the president, believe it will contribute to a safer public environment and help keep a lid on the violent anger that has been boiling over in recent weeks as riots, looting, arson, and destruction of property.
Others, however, are angry that the administration has not tackled, to their satisfaction, the foundation of the public’s discontent: serious socioeconomic inequality that includes low wages, penurious pensions, and expensive education, transportation, health, and other living expenses. Added to this is their concern that the police and military have, in many instances, had a heavy-handed response to the recent protests that has resulted in human rights violations and injuries.
The president concluded his announcement with a message to the Chilean people, as reported in El Desconcierto: “Today is a time for unity, also a time for solutions.”
Camila Huecho is a journalism student at Universidad de La Frontera in Temuco, currently interning at Chile Today. As a freelance illustrator and Fellow at the Melton Foundation, she works to bring information and cultures together through communications and art.