PROVIDENCIA – Chile’s minors’ service has come under fire following a viral video in which a child can be heard screaming for help. An initial inquiry revealed that police had intervened after three children had climbed on the building’s roof. The incident has once again shed light on the failed institution that’s seen as a place of state-sanctioned abuse and neglect.
A resident of Santiago’s Providencia district made a video that triggered a public outcry. The video shows a building of the National Minors’ Service (Sename), inside from which pleas for help can be heard.
Carabineros police said officers were called to the place because three children were seen on the roof, and the altercation was the result of police intervention.
Protests erupted in front of the residence shortly after the video went viral. However, the Children’s Ombudsperson, Patricia Muñoz, has urged the public to desist from protests as they could have a negative impact on children.
“No, please! It hurts, it hurts,” can be clearly heard in the video filmed at Carlos Antúnez family residence. Carla Leal, Metropolitan region’s Sename director expressed concern and promised an investigation. Meanwhile, Muñoz said on Twitter that “we are already working on this, but I insist, as we have been saying since 2018, without any structural changes this will not end.”
Abuse is common in the minors’ service, but the scale of the catastrophe can only be gleaned. In 2018, a Supreme Court report revealed that 40 percent of Sename homes are overcrowded. That same year, a UN report detailed the state’s failures to protect vulnerable children.
Entiendo la rabia de la gente, pero manifestarse fuera de la residencia solo afecta a l@s niñ@s, les incomoda y puede tener impacto negativo, favor evítelo, el reclamo y alteración la debe recibie el SENAME, no ell@s! #sename
— Patty Muñoz García (@Pa__tty) March 24, 2021
A 13-year-old and two other minors climbed on the roof of the building, and personnel called emergency medical services and the police at around 7 p.m., in line with protocols. By 8:50 p.m., the children left the roof, but the 13-year-old tried to climb up again. As an officer intervened, the child attacked with dumbbells, roller skates, and other sharp objects.
When the police tried to contain the minor, the child started crying and shouting. The home’s medical assistants tried to emotionally contain the child during the police intervention.
Emergency medical services that were called to the scene never arrived.
“Don’t Intervene” Justice Ministry Says
Justice Minister Hernán Larraín told the Senate that he asked Carabineros to not intervene in cases where the person involved suffers from mental health problems, at least until a new protocol for such cases is finalized.
Additionally, Larraín also requested a full investigation from the police.
Francisco is finishing his degree in Journalism at Universidad Finis Terrae in Santiago.