SANTIAGO – The social crisis that started in October 2019 left thousands injured and 33 dead. The Comptroller’s Office is currently investigating seven police generals for culpability in the incidents. The office filed charges against these men for not guaranteeing compliance with the protocols on the use of force.
Almost a year after the social crisis unfolded, the Comptroller’s Office notified seven police generals — who belong to the institution’s High Command — that an investigation is underway to determine their responsibility for incidents that occurred during the social crisis.
The men being investigated are: Ricardo Yáñez, current national director of Order and Security; Jorge Valenzuela, national director of Support for Police Operations; Mauricio Rodríguez, chief of the Metropolitan Area; Enrique Bassaleti, chief of the Santiago East Zone; Enrique Monrás, chief of the Santiago West Zone; Hugo Zenteno, chief of the Valparaíso Area; and Jean Camus, Logistics Director.
According to BioBioChile, the Comptroller’s decision to file charges is part of an administrative secret investigation directed by the Institutional Prosecutor’s Office, which began after several organizations and individuals complained that those in charge of police protocols should be examined.
In March 2019, Chile’s national police force (Carabineros de Chile) updated its protocols for use of force and established new principles and instructions for different scenarios. This, after the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights determined the state was responsible for the death of a Mapuche teenager who died in 2002 after a police officer shot him in the head with a tear gas canister.
Among the updated protocols is one that implies that a wrongful use of force not only implicates individual responsibility (the person who committed the act) but “command” responsibility (those in charge who directed it). The protocols also detail the proper use of force and forbid any act of torture or degrading treatment.
These protocols were violated during the social crisis. The National Institute for Human Rights (INDH) asserts that, in the first 20 days of the crisis, it received 2,300 complaints of human rights violations by the police. Thereafter, the numbers kept rising; right before the coronavirus pandemic hit the country, the INDH reported that 3,765 people had been injured during the social crisis.
In July 2020, the Ministry of Interior updated another police protocol for the use of riot shotguns. It now provides that riot shotguns — frequently used during the social crisis — are reserved for self-defense and only then when other less harmful tools are insufficient.
Rozas Meets with Generals
Currently, the investigation is in its first stage. The Comptroller’s Office will evaluate the defendants’ arguments and then propose the sanctions it deems appropriate to the police force’s Director-General Mario Rozas. The possible penalties are written warnings or, in some cases, dismissal from the institution. All the penalties proposed by the Comptroller’s Office will have to be approved or rejected by President Sebastián Piñera.
On Sept. 11, and after learning about the Comptroller’s charges, Rozas met with 40 generals of the High Command. The only public announcement from the Carabineros so far is a statement that says that any information needed for the investigation will be provided. The institution added that it was important to remember the context of the period in question – extreme violence. “This meant a high demand and, consequently, an unprecedented demand on the human and logistical resources that Carabineros de Chile had.”
Compartimos comunicado en relación al sumario administrativo que efectúa la Contraloría General de la República, sobre hechos ocurridos entre el 18 de octubre y el 31 de diciembre de 2019. pic.twitter.com/RRrEckE2HK
— Carabineros de Chile (@Carabdechile) September 11, 2020
Fernanda Gándara is currently finishing her journalism degree at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She’s passionate about writing, environmental issues and women empowerment. You can find her on Twitter as @FerGMarchant