SANTIAGO – SENAME will start sharing confidential information about minors with ANI. The national minors service and the domestic intelligence agency came up with the deal to try to prevent another wave of social protests in which minors in SENAME’s custody participate. It remains to be seen what will happen to the deal, because SENAME workers blew the whistle on the deal, claiming it violates children’s rights.
A strategic alliance between the National Minors’ Service (SENAME) and the National Intelligence Agency (ANI) was created Feb. 22, with the purpose of preventing another wave of social protests that was scheduled to ramp back up in March. The alliance was made with an eye to the fact that half of the minors arrested during the marches had escaped from SENAME custody.
The deal would give ANI access to any information about minors who are residing in SENAME homes, with the official goal of compiling information that could be of interest to the government and to detect any activity that could be considered “terrorism.”
The deal was brought to light in late April by the SENAME workers union.
Grave Concerns About Privacy
The SENAME workers union contacted the Chilean Youth Commissioner, the authority in charge of protecting the rights of children in Chile. The union threatened to involve the judicial system if the deal was not rescinded and added that this alliance would only increase the criminal stigma that children in the SENAME system suffer.
The secretary of the union, Pablo Valdebenito, contacted the press about the deal. What most worries the union is that ANI would receive access to personal interviews that are held with the families of the children, the children’s psychological evaluations, and the measures that SENAME takes to ensure the children’s protection.
Sergio Micco, the director of the National Institute of Human Rights (INDH), expressed his concerns about the alliance: “This could end up creating a database that would gravely affect the children’s right to privacy.”
ANI and SENAME defended the deal, saying that it was created so that both institutions could better collaborate in sharing information and that it would also help them assure the confidentiality of the records checked, because, absent the deal, SENAME ordinarily is forced to turn over any information related to an ANI investigation.
ANI’s Interest in SENAME
Intelligence agencies in Chile are controversial because of their prominent role in human rights abuses during the Pinochet dictatorship. This is why, in 1991, the then-newly-created democratic government established ANI as a civilian intelligence service, which means its agents only gather information and give it to others for subsequent action.
ANI last made the news when its director resigned due to his failure to advise about the October protests in Chile, even though ANI had submitted a report to the Ministry of Transport 10 days before the protests. Because of the perceived failure, ANI wanted to prevent a repeat of the scale of the protests back in October. To do this, it contacted SENAME, because minors ostensibly under SENAME’s supervision were active participants in the protests.
For example, in the city of Valparaíso, half of the minors detained were supposed to have been under SENAME’s supervision.
In fact, many of them make up the Primera Línea – the “first line” protesters who confront the police with the purpose of preventing them from breaking up protests.
As a practical matter, many of those minors gravitate to the protests because they have nowhere to go and nowhere to stay besides the SENAME centers, which have been described as living hells. As a result, many minors try to escape the SENAME centers, and, when they succeed, they have nowhere else to turn but to a life of crime and solitude. The protests give many of them a sense of belonging and purpose that they had never felt before.
Diego Rivera is currently a senior in University, finishing up his audiovisual degree. You can find him on Twitter as @Piover45.