During coronavirus, Chile Government continues to murder and torture

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Protesters in Chile, Santiago (image by Carlos Figueroa via Wikimedia Commons).

Since the 1970s, the Chile administration and police have killed, tortured, raped and suppressed protests with impunity, says Iván Ojeda Pereira

THE 1970s IN Latin America were dyed in blood. As a consequence of United States interventionism through the “Condor” operation, the conditions were propitious for the military to begin a series of dictatorships in the sub-continent. Chile was not out of the process and it is in that sense that, on September 11th, 1973, the first democratically-elected socialist government in the world ends.

Salvador Allende was bombed at the Government House by the Armed and Order forces. The Army's Commander-in-Chief, Augusto Pinochet, then began his 17 bloody years of civic-military dictatorship.

This dictatorship, unlike all the others in Latin America, followed the recommendations of the Chicago Boys and planted a neoliberal model in the country, whose normative base was embodied in an imposed political constitution written inside "four walls", without the consultation of Parliament and with the absence of political parties or citizen participation.

This Constitution transformed the role of the state into a merely subsidiary one and transferred its obligations to the private sector. At the same time, the incipient state companies were auctioned off to absurd values in favour of the economic elite that supported the Pinochet dictatorship and a series of state-funded privileges for the military and police were protected.

The orthodox neoliberalism implanted in Chile means much more than an economic model; it established a model of society whose main bond of cohesion is competition, promoting individualisation at the expense of collective or community projects.

During the Pinochet dictatorship, thousands of citizens were tortured, disappeared and murdered due to their political opinion, while omnipotent military and police institutions were structured and accustomed to acting without a regulatory framework. Human rights considerations were totally alien to them. Carabineros de Chile became a militarised police force, loaded with a purifying and punishing claim to society, whose purpose was to use physical and psychological harm as punishment.

After the 1990s, the country went through a "return to democracy" process, which is nothing more than a pact between some political sectors and Augusto Pinochet, validated by a plebiscite. The dictator even sat in Parliament as a senator for life, the Constitution did not change, the armed and order forces were not deprived of their benefits. They were not restructured as new institutions based on respect for human rights. Justice was neither done for detainees; tortured and murdered.

Education, health, pensions, housing, everything in Chile is ran by private agents and depends on a market full of collusion and corruption, where people die without medical attention. Then you have young people without resources, who do not have opportunities to study. The elderly do not earn more than 300 euros in their retirements.

This legacy exploded on October 18th, 2019, as a result of a new rise in public (that is actually private) transportation fees. The population began a social outbreak that breaks neoliberalism.

Post-dictatorship Chile, which allowed the existence of authoritarian enclaves inherited from Pinochet, entered into a deep crisis because the call to transform the situation was corrupted and avoided by economic groups and personal interests, generating an abysmal distance between the political system and ordinary people.

It is in this context, assuming all the repressive burden inherited by the ruling Chilean elite, with the cooperation of the military and police, that the response of the Government of the multimillionaire Sebastián Piñera (who made his fortune by the profits of the state companies auctioned in the dictatorship) have been nothing but repression of the legitimate social protests for dignity.

That repression has led to serious and systematic human rights violations documented in reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the UN Office for Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

This year in Chile, state agents have tortured, raped, mutilated, and murdered, while the Government continues to support them institutionally. The National Institute of Human Rights, Chile has documented 3,765 people injured, 445 eye mutilations, 2,122 wounded by gunshots, 1,835 human right violations (sexual violence, torture and cruel treatment) and 36 deaths. The numbers continue to increase.

Every day, people who die at the hands of the Chile Government and police become a number. State violence is normalized. The names of the three victims whose lives were taken in early March are Cristian Valdevenito, Danilo Cardenas and Alexis Aguilera.

The violence carried out by Carabineros de Chile and the Government of Sebastián Piñera is based on a logic that was ingrained during the military dictatorship and was never reconfigured, which today has left many young people of my age without their eyes, raped or murdered.

We have awakened, we have opened our eyes to ask for dignity and they have found nothing better than to take our eyes off. The citizens of Chile more than ever need international support.

Iván Ojeda Pereira is studying Sociology at the University of Chile and works as a teaching and research assistant.

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