SANTIAGO – Two political parties, the Christian Democrats and the Socialist Party, formally accused Felipe Guevara, intendente of the Metropolitan Region of Santiago, of violating the Constitution. President Sebastián Piñera appointed Guevara to the post in late October. Since then, he has become a controversial figure in the social crisis.
After serving almost 10 years as the mayor of Lo Barnechea, Felipe Guevara assumed the role of governor of the Metropolitan Region of Santiago on Oct. 30, taking over for Karla Rubilar when she became the official spokesperson for the president’s administration.
Guevara is a member of the right wing party National Renovation and has been in politics since the late 1990s. Guevara is an outspoken supporter of the president and began his position as governor by firmly standing behind Chile’s national police force. In one of his first public statements as governor, he said that he valued the work of the police, that “the first human right is security,” and that in that sense the institution “has been working,” which angered some residents who accused the police and other state agencies of committing human rights abuses during the social crisis.
The Constitutional Accusation against Felipe Guevara
Since then, politicians and private citizens alike have criticized Guevara’s decisions regarding public security and the approval of tactics used by the police, and he is now the third politicians in the Piñera administration to be on the receiving end of a constitutional accusation (the first two were Public Security Minister Andrés Chadwick and Piñera, himself).
The accusation against Guevara is that he violated the Constitution’s Article 9, number 13 [“the right to assemble peacefully without permission and without weapons”]. It specifically relates to the death of Mauricio Fredes (33), a protestor who was fleeing the police when he fell into a pit nearly two meters deep that had standing water and Enel electric lines. (For its part, Enel has pointed out that the cover of the pit “was destroyed by third parties.”) Initial reports claimed that electric shock had killed Fredes, but recent reports from the Legal Medical Service – an independent medical institute – state that his cause of death was drowning. Fredes was a resident of La Pintana and a construction worker.
The two accusing political parties also contend that Guevara had been neglecting his duties as governor by ignoring and encouraging the escalation of police actions and thereby directly infringed on people’s rights. Esteban Maturana, leader of a regional health union, and his colleagues demand Guevara’s immediate resignation, saying, “Santiago cannot endure one more day in the hands of these psychopaths.” Maturana contends that instead of protecting the public, the police are contributing to the chaos and injuring residents, and that Guevara is complicit in these actions.
Additional Events That Fuel The Accusations
Fredes is not the only protestor whose injury has been blamed on the police since Felipe Guevara took over as governor. On Dec. 20, Óscar Pérez (20), was allegedly pinned between two armored tear gas trucks and suffered a crushed pelvis.
The Fredes and Pérez incidents also follow close on the heels of thousands of case filings alleging human rights violations by the police in recent months. The Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos has also accused the organization of torture and cruel treatment of over 550 people.
Nevertheless, Guevara continues to deploy the police in large numbers—complete with tear gas and water cannon trucks—to places like Plaza Italia (dubbed “Plaza de la Dignidad” during the crisis), even as pending court cases might ultimately decide that such force is excessive and in violation of the public’s right to protest.
As of Dec. 31, Guevara claimed that he has not received an official subpoena to appear in court and continued to maintain that he was innocent of wrongdoing. Meanwhile, the amount of police deployed to Plaza Italia has not slowed, with 1,000 troops deployed on New Year’s Eve alone.
Bethany works as a professional English teacher from the United States. She obtained her Bachelors of Arts in English Education and Masters of Liberal Arts in English from Henderson State University. As well as a life-long Literature and Language lover, Bethany also dabbles in stand-up comedy on the weekends. She currently lives in Santiago, Chile where, in addition to teaching, she organizes bilingual events with The Chistolas, a comedy and event-management group.