SANTIAGO – Another day, another allegation of serious abuse by the army: this time the accusation is that an Alvi Supermarket in Maipú was used as an illegal detention and torture center during the earlier days of the ongoing protest and social unrest. This most recent allegation now stands alongside others. With each passing day, it gets harder and harder for authorities to get their arms around these accusations.
According to alleged eyewitnesses, including some claiming to be victims, an Alvi Supermarket in Maipú was used as a detention and torture center by the army during the state of emergency declared by President Sebastián Piñera on Oct. 19.
According to the allegations, many supermarkets and other commercial buildings in Maipú were looted, and the army took over the Alvi Supermarket after the looting. As reported by Interferencia, many neighbors in the zone claimed they heard screams, threats, and punching sounds coming from the market.
Others told Interferencia they had been detained at Alvi. One claimed that, on Oct. 20, he went out to a cacerolazo. When it was time for curfew that night (8 p.m.), many people went home. This resident, however, stayed. “We stayed shouting for the companions that were on [a military truck, detained] and were insulting the military. There, without warning, they attacked us by shooting pellets.”
He said he tried to leave but couldn’t because he was on a bike and got caught in the tumult of people fleeing. As a result, he told Interferencia, he was probably the first one to get caught, because a soldier hit him and knocked him to the ground. “They started kicking me on the ground, there they told me ‘shout now,’ I told them ‘shout’ and they beat me. They started folding my arms, they caught my hood and yelled at me not to look at them … [and other] pure threats. They dragged me, hit me on the legs and sprained my right leg. ”
The victim told Interferencia that he was then put in a truck with 18 other detainees. The detention lasted about four hours, before they were simply released with no further legal procedures. “They put us in a line and shouted at us that we had ten seconds to run. They started counting down, I ran as I could, because I was lame, I could not move my leg.” He said he stopped to try to get his bike and two soldiers aimed at him and kept telling him to run. There is no record of his detention.
Other Pending Cases
As the weeks go by, more and more stories like this have surfaced. The first to rock the nation was the Baquedano Metro station case, in which witnesses reported cries for help below ground. The Baquedano case is being investigated by the National Institute of Human Rights (INDH) and the Investigations Police (PDI) but thus far no formal conclusion has been reached.
On Oct. 21, another incident allegedly took place at Plaza Ñuñoa: a man and a 16 year-old boy were reportedly beaten and left severely injured by police in the context of a protest. Via Twitter, regional prosecutor Manuel Guerra subsequently reported that 14 police officers would be prosecuted for acts of torture related to this case, which could end with prison sentences of 5-10 years. As reported by CNN, the prosecutor said authorities expect to act as rigorously as possible, and that the accused will undergo preventive detention while the investigation continues.
Also on Oct. 21, Universidad Católica student Josué Maureira was detained by police and released soon after during a protest. Maureira claimed to have been insulted, beaten, and sexually tortured by police during his detention in Pedro Aguirre Cerda Police Office. “They hit me so many times in the head that I lost consciousness,” he told AND Radio. After being tortured, he said that he was brought to a hospital, but doctors didn’t check him: “They sat at their computer and crafted a report, writing ‘mild injuries,’ while the police were still choking me,” he said. He said he also received death threats from the police after that.
Another incident allegedly occurred on Nov. 6. The allegations are that two 17-year-olds were detained and that, one, a Mapuche, was verbally and sexually assaulted, receiving genital injuries, while the other was beaten and locked up in a police vehicle full of irritating gas for five minutes. The alleged aggressors are from the 38º Police Office of Puente Alto. The INDH has already initiated legal action with respect to this case, according to Cooperativa.
According to the latest figures released by the INDH via Twitter, the INDH has initiated 219 complaints against the police or military in the context of the current social movement in Chile. Of these, 168 are torture cases.
According to the INDH’s website, the institution has received 2,300 complaints of human rights violations in the last 20 days.
INDH lawyer Francisca Figueroa told Cooperativa that the cases are examined before qualifying them as torture cases. “When we file cases through the victims’ testimonies, we do a juridic evaluation of the circumstances in relation to international rights standards … In these cases, … we agree that they are [acts of torture].”
As reported by BioBioChile, the INDH has been listing and categorizing the alleged violations committed throughout the social movement present in Chile for the past three weeks, including:
- Arbitrary detentions,
- Excessive use of force,
- Excessive repression,
- Use of plainclothes police officers, and
- The injuries and deaths these actions have caused.
In this same article, Police General Director Mario Rozas added that the INDH is working with the police to improve their protocols and that all complaints have been examined by the police as well, but that all demonstrations are currently illegal, as none of the are really “authorized.”
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.