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Column by Daniel Matamala: They want impunity

José Huenante was 16 years old. Son of a low-income family in Puerto Montt, he worked packing hedgehogs. On September 3, 2005, he was detained by a Carabineros patrol.

And it disappeared forever.

The PDI investigations revealed a series of irregularities committed by the patrol in charge, including the adulteration of the vehicle’s mileage and the detainee book. The prosecutor managed to accuse the police officers involved, but then the case was transferred to military justice, because there were uniformed officers involved.

There he languished for years.

In 2010 and 2016, successive reforms signed by Presidents Piñera and Bachelet finally allowed crimes like Huenante’s to be heard by civil courts. But it was too late. When the case returned to regular justice in 2018, finding new evidence was already almost impossible. His lawyer warned that key evidence had been lost and hidden.

Today José Huenante would be 35 years old. His family is still looking for him. And his case remains unpunished.

In 2018, Camilo Catrillanca was murdered with a shot to the back of the head while, unarmed, he was traveling on a tractor with a 15-year-old teenager. The first official versions attributed the events to a confrontation, assured that there was no record of cameras, and, later, that this evidence had been destroyed.

However, thanks to the reforms of Piñera and Bachelet, this case was heard by a prosecutor, in civil justice, who dismantled the cover-up. The images of the crime came to light, the police officer Carlos Alarcón confessed that he was forced to lie by his superiors, and the justice system convicted the author of one completed homicide and one attempted homicide.

The Catrillanca crime had truth and justice. That of Huenante, neither one nor the other.

This Thursday, Chile went back to the dark times of military justice. The united commissions of the Chamber of Deputies approved that acts committed by soldiers and police in certain circumstances, such as states of emergency and others, “will always be heard” by military courts.

It was the climax of a week of political attacks against justice. A campaign of harassment and demolition that aims to intimidate prosecutors and judges who have had the insolence to do their job: investigate possible crimes.

And if they don’t let themselves be intimidated, get rid of them.

This campaign took advantage of the despicable murder of three police officers in Cañete. The same morning that the crime became known, RN and the UDI were already asking for an amnesty law for police officers and soldiers responsible for torture, mutilations and homicides of civilians between 2019 and 2020. Then, they demanded the dismissal of prosecutors Armendáriz and Chong, and his political pressure managed to get the Prosecutor’s Office to postpone the formalization of General Ricardo Yáñez.

RN deputy Camila Flores spoke of “carabineros who are persecuted by the judicial activism of prosecutor Chong.” (We know that the political hatred against Chong has another origin: she is the only prosecutor who has managed to put a senator in Chile, UDI Jaime Orpis, in jail for corruption).

Republican Cristián Araya spoke of “indecent prosecutors and judges turned into true activists of Octubrism.” An escalation to which Mayor Evelyn Matthei joined, denouncing that “prosecutors are inventing crimes.”

These politicians are usurping the work of justice and destroying the independence of the powers of the State. And they do so by spreading false or misleading information to undermine citizens’ confidence in justice.

An illustrative case in this regard: many politicians, as well as retired admirals of the Navy, are using the case of Yordan Llempi as an argument to transfer the cases to military justice. In it, according to candidate Marcela Cubillos, marines are being put on trial for “the crime of having arrived in time to defend and save other police officers who were under terrorist attack.”

That is false. In that case, a group of protesters blocked a route and clashed with police and marines. However, the actions of the latter disconcerted the police themselves. Carabineros Sergeant Raúl Canales declared that the person in charge of the Navy “took off with the jars. He did not pay attention to me and wanted to carry out his procedure without taking into account my person as the oldest of the Carabineros.

Radio communications show this lack of control, with instructions among the sailors such as “culiao Indians” and “I don’t give a damn if a woman is going to die.” The person who died was Yordan Llempi, a 23-year-old young man who was shot dead in the patio of his own house while, together with his family, he was trying to reach the woodshed to take shelter from the gunshots.

The Prosecutor’s Office accuses Navy Corporal Ricardo Seguel of that death. But Seguel, like every Chilean, civilian or military, enjoys the presumption of innocence. It will be an independent court, in a public and transparent trial, that will decide whether or not he is guilty.

Quite the opposite of military justice, where the person who investigates, accuses and condemns is the same person, a uniformed person subject to the command structure. It is not blind justice; It is a partial justice, where the soldier is judged by his own institution.

The House committee approved this project by 14 votes to 12, thanks to the support of the “democrat” Miguel Ángel Calisto and the “yellow” Andrés Jouannet. The self-proclaimed center parties, heirs of the “30 years” and the Concertación, thus voted to betray one of the historic flags of the Concertación: equality before the law and the demilitarization of justice.

The next day, this aberration was rejected by a single vote in the House, but the opposition has already announced that it will insist in the Senate.

In short: they seek to dictate amnesties so that crimes already prosecuted against civilians remain unpunished. They intimidate prosecutors to prevent them from doing their job. They design an ad-hoc, à la carte, justice for uniformed men. They divide Chileans into two different classes before justice, some with more rights than others. These politicians are attacking the very foundations of the rule of law and destroying equality before the law.

They don’t want justice. What they want is impunity.

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