Last Thursday, people gathered in the streets of Jaime Eyzaguirre Macul in Chile, participating in a two-day national strike. Among those was 16 year old Manuel Gutierrez. While police violence against protesters, especially students, is not uncommon in Chile, Manual probably expected to return home after the protests. Instead, he was mortally wounded due to shots fired by the police.
Originally the police denied responsibility, a position they have since retracted. Officer Miguel Millacura, who said he was responding to shots fired by protesters by shooting his Uzi 9 millimeter in the air, was asked to resign. An investigation continues.
Someone in Chile sent me the following video, demonstrating how common unprovoked violence is from the Carabineros de Chile. I urge you not just to watch the disturbing images but to also listen to how some the audio references Pinochet, so many years after the dictatorship.
While a recent article in The Guardian, looks at police brutality specifically in Argentina and its role as part of the legacy left by right-wing dictatorships there, I think the following quote is applicable to the Southern Cone as a whole:
A recent study at Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University identified Argentina as having one of the worst records of police violence in Latin America, with 8.7% of the population subjected to some form of violence and abuse by the Argentinian police forces in 2009… 28 years after the end of the military-led dictatorship, still hangs over Argentina’s human rights and security practices. Nationally, “there is almost one case of police violence every day”, says Gerardo Netche, Argentinian lawyer and researcher for the anti-police corruption organisation Correpi. Most cases are “easy trigger” murders (so named by a 1980 judge who thought it was more sensitive to victims’ families than “trigger happy”) or torture. “These days,” says Netche, “generally all prisoners get beaten up, with more or less force depending on their case. Sadly it is very rare that any of these cases reach any kind of conviction.”