On International Human Rights Day, Chileans demand release of political prisoners

In the capital Santiago, the national police repressed the protest near presidential palace with tear gas and water cannons spraying water with toxic chemicals

December 11, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
On December 10, hundreds of Chileans took to the streets to demand the release of all political prisoners in the country in the capital Santiago as well as other cities. Photo: Coordinadora 18 de Octubre

This December 10, on International Human Rights Day, hundreds of Chileans took to the streets to demand the release of all political prisoners in the country. There was special emphasis on the demand to release the protesters arrested during the protests of October 2019 and in demonstrations in the following months as well as the Indigenous Mapuche political prisoners.

Several small demonstrations were carried out throughout the country, demanding amnesty without conditions; withdrawal of the modification to law 321, which establishes more specific requirements to qualify for the benefit of parole; compliance with the Convention 169 of the ILO, which recognizes Indigenous people and their rights; and resumption of dignified visits for all inmates in all prisons.

Members of various human rights organizations, social movements and relatives of the prisoners mobilized in the capital, Santiago, as well as in the cities of Antofagasta, Concepción, Puerto Montt, San Felipe, Temuco, Villarrica and Valparaíso, among others. In some cities, the protesters blocked roads with burning tyres and scrap. The call for the national protest day was given by the Coordinator October 18.

In Santiago, the officials of the national police force, the Carabineros, stopped the protesters from carrying out a peaceful march from República metro station to the La Moneda presidential palace. They used tear gas and water cannons to disperse people. Additionally, at least two protesters were arrested.

However, minutes later, the protesters held a relatively bigger march from the Los Heroes metro station to the La Moneda presidential palace. This march was also repressed by the Carabineros, who once again shot tear gas canisters and sprayed water with toxic chemicals against the protesters.

 

Human right organizations, such as the Chilean Human Rights Commission (CChDH), among others denounced the use of chemicals by Carabineros in recent repression actions and deemed it a direct violation of international human rights.

Read more: Chileans approve drafting a new constitution

Since November, citizens have been organizing to demand the release of protesters, who have spent more than a year in prison for demonstrating in the streets. For the past two weeks, members of several civil rights groups and political parties have been mobilizing in the capital every Friday to demand the release of these prisoners. They have also sought the resignation of the far-right President Sebastián Piñera.

According to a survey published on December 10, conducted by the Criteria pollster in the month of November, only 7% of the Chilean population approves of the Piñera’s government. In just one month, Piñera’s approval fell 13% to 7%. According to Criteria, the figure is “the lowest approval figure for Sebastián Piñera and the lowest in the entire series of Criteria polls,” in the monthly research study, which began in August 2016.

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