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The legislative week in a “matacaballo” for the security agenda

The disgusted face of the Minister of the Interior, Carolina Tohá (PPD), yesterday in the Finance Commission, it was evident.

At that time the member deputies, from the ruling party and the opposition, They were pressuring not to vote on the project that creates the Ministry of Security, since the report of the Security Commission had arrived on time. It was the last legislative hurdle that remained for the initiative before being discussed in the room.

The reform of the new ministry, plus the project on Rules for the Use of Force (RUF) and the changes to the anti-terrorist law were part of the legislative triad with which Congress tried to provide a political response to the murder of three police officers in Cañetethe last weekend.

To do this, the presidents of the Chamber, Karol Cariola (PC), and the Senate, Jose Garcia (RN), had agreed to suspend this week’s legislative recess (called “regional” in the case of senators and “district” for deputies), in which parliamentarians turn to work in their territories.

However, getting these initiatives out of stagnation was not easy. The government was somewhat erratic at the beginning of the week and there was resistance from the opposition (in the ministry’s project) and from the ruling party (against the RUF and the anti-terrorist law) to legislate “matacaballo”, the legislators repeated. In the end, the pressure from both tables prevailed and the two branches of Congress held floor sessions to vote on these initiatives.

Although these projects managed to take important steps, the controversies and tensions left a bitter feeling in the ruling party and the opposition.

The government basically celebrated the dispatch of the anti-terrorism bill by the Senate, where there was a technical agreement between Minister Tohá and the opposition. For his part, Senator García himself withdrew several indications that toughened the text to facilitate its transversal approval. Even so, the content did not satisfy senators from the DC, the PC and the Broad Front.

The vice president of the Senate, Matias Walker (Democrats), valued the progress of this reform, regardless of the incidents and differences. “The president of the Senate managed to have the Constitutional Commission meet to review the anti-terrorist law. He showed a lot of leadership. He discussed with Minister Tohá the possibility of simplifying the project. We were very satisfied,” he said.

In the case of the Rules for the Use of Force (RUF) and the new ministry, which were in the hands of the Chamber, the Executive was not completely satisfied with the contents, since the right-wing deputies – in alliance with the Democratic legislators and Yellow – had rejected elements defended by the government and, on the other hand, had approved other articles resisted by the ruling party. For example, in the vote in the room, the opposition ratified the rejection of the principle of proportionality in the RUF that the Executive proposed.

However, there was no satisfaction in the opposition either, as they did not believe that these initiatives were a strong signal to confront organized crime.

Taking stock of the week, the vice president of the Chamber, Eric Aedo (DC), noted that “we were undoubtedly bruised. A discussion process had to be accelerated, as a result of a reality that was imposed with the three murdered police officers. If I can take anything away, it is that we woke up and stuck our heads out of the ground, like the ostrich. We can no longer talk about rural violence. Here there is an organized crime, drug trafficking, with the decision to take territorial control. It is an awakening that blew up in the government’s face.”

When commenting on the atmosphere in the Chamber, Minister Tohá made a collective reproach. “It would be mean to Chile not to transform the creation of this Ministry (of Security) into a transversal triumph for Chilean society… Let us not transform the achievements that we have achieved together into defeats. Not from this minister, not from this government, but from this political system that has such a hard time agreeing.”

Controversy aside was the debate on the deputy’s indication Diego Schalper (RN) to the project on Rules for the Use of Force (RUF), which returned to military justice cases in which uniformed personnel committed a crime, in the performance of public order and security tasks, even when there were civilian victims. This measure was severely criticized by the ruling party.

Given that it was a rule that departed from the parent ideas, the Chamber board declared it inadmissible. Schalper argued the point, but his position did not gather a majority, achieving only 72 votes in favor, 71 against and one abstention (which in practical terms adds to the rejection). When there was a virtual tie, the RN deputy’s claim was rejected and the table chaired by Cariola imposed its criteria.

This amendment, which the right considered lost because it required a majority of 78 votes in the room, became the great legislative battle at the end of the season of the united Constitution and Security commissions, which for more than a year processed the RUF. , with several incidents and controversies.

In the united commissions, This indication on military justice was approved on Thursday nightwith a narrow margin, 14 votes in favor and 12 against, after a tense debate and a couple of interruptions that only added more suspense to the vote.

In addition to the 12 right-wing votes, Andrés Jouannet (Amarillos and former DC) and the president of the united commissions, the deputy Miguel Ángel Calisto (today Democrats and former DC), gave their approval. If one of the latter had abstained or voted against, the indication would have fallen.

On Thursday night, Calisto was evidently complicated by the same historical weight of the norm, which reopened a legal-political conflict that accompanied all the Concertación governments.

“It is a setback,” said the Minister of Justice, Luis Cordero, because this historical problem had been resolved with two reforms. One from 2010, promoted by the first administration of the late former president Sebastián Piñera, who, in order to comply with the requirements of international treaties, excluded the accused civilians from military jurisdiction.

With this, a substantive step was taken to limit military justice, which had broad jurisdiction after the dictatorship, including cases of human rights, terrorist behavior or ordinary matters such as traffic accidents.

Then, in 2016, in the second term of the then President Michelle Bacheleta second consideration was included, and it was established that military justice could not hear any case in which civilians were involved, regardless of whether they were victims or defendants.

This allowed, for example, the case of the senator Fabiola Campillai, who suffered a tear gas impact in the face, in addition to other episodes of the social outbreak, were tried in civil courts and investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office. Military justice, on the other hand, maintains the old criminal model, in which the judge-prosecutor investigates and punishes.

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