Chile: Piñera Wants to Free Human Rights Violators, Political Prisoners are Not Bargaining Chips

By Francisca Barbosa and Joaquín Araneda / Movimiento Anticapitalista

Prison conditions in Chile are subhuman. The National Institute of Human Rights, in its latest report on the conditions of the prison population in the country, reveals appalling living conditions, overcrowding, punishment and a worrying level of violence within prison facilities [1]. But this did not seem to matter to any politician; prisoners´ human rights do not buy votes or generate profits.

The Dignity and Health of Political Prisoners are Not Bargaining Chips

The deep rooted idea that “the bad guys” are in jail and the punitive notions that capitalism needs to promote in reaction to social conflict, have been fiercely sharpened since October 18. The ongoing process of revolt demonstrated that prisons serve to imprison poverty and rebellion, and that the only tool known to the right and various sectors that call themselves “progressive” is criminalization.

Since then, our prisons have been filled with political prisoners, many of them minors, who are currently in preventive detention and exposed to the spread of COVID-19.

In this context, social organizations, especially the Coordinadora 18 de Octubre, demand that the prisoners of the rebellion be sent home immediately. Since the virus began to spread in our country, various protests and riots have taken place in prisons in which political and common prisoners unite to demand dignity.

What They Want With the Bill and the Advance of the Right

On March 27, the executive dispatched a bill to Congress that seeks to grant a general commutative pardon, under certain very specific and limited requirements, which does NOT include political prisoners, for prisoners who are over 75 years old, who are pregnant or have children younger than two years of age. The bill also proposes a general commutative pardon for persons serving sentences of nocturnal imprisonment and the partial nocturnal confinement and who have a controlled exits or Sunday exits, allowing them to temporarily serve their sentence in six months of house arrest.

As expected, the UDI and RN voted against the project and resorted to their beloved Constitutional Court because this law excluded the murderers, rapists and torturers of Punta Peuco. To this, the Piñera government responded with a veto that would grant pardons to human rights violators and fast-track the “Humanitarian Law” that the same government introduced in 2018 to commute the sentences of the Punta Peuco criminals.

Probably no prison in the world has better conditions than those of the criminals of the Chilean dictatorship. Still, the right is pursuing an offensive policy that could mean the deaths of thousands of prisoners for defending their “helpless” decrepit old men. Furthermore, the quintessential allies of this political sector have shown up: the churches. Some Christian “leaders” presented an appeal for these criminals, alleging that their dignity and human rights were being violated by being exposed to the virus. [2]

International human rights law, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in particular, indicate that crimes against humanity do not prescribe, and are not eligible for amnesty or pardon: “The provisions of prescription and the establishment of exclusionary responsibility that seeks to prevent the investigation and punishment of those responsible for serious human rights violations.” (IACHR, Case of Barrios Altos v/s Peru 2001, Series C nº 75, foundation 41.)

It makes no sense, even within the logic of the capitalist state, to put common prisoners and political prisoners in the same place with human rights violators, except in this country, where the impunity of the military reigns. Because it is not the same, IT NEVER WILL BE, to rise up against the injustices and inequalities that perpetuate and feed this State, or to kidnap, rape, torture and assassinate from state power, like they did during the dictatorship and Piñera has done since October 18.

Human Rights Violators in Common Prisons, Political Prisoners in their Homes

The former Concertación built them luxury jails, now Piñera tries to grant them complete impunity by freeing them. This cannot be allowed. Social and political pressure is central for “Never again” to become a reality once and for all. That is why we must not only stop the pardon, we also sustain the demand for real justice. When democracy begins to retreat, this becomes imperative: until every human rights violator of the Pinochet dictatorship and of the years of “democracy” is confined in a common prison, without forgiving or forgetting.

Piñera offensive is a consequence of his continuity in government, this time taking advantage of the sanitary crisis to strike back at those who rebelled against the system´s 30 years of economic and social impunity. There are more than 2 thousand political prisoners, held in prisons and SENAME centers, their freedom cannot be used as a bargaining chip. They represent the dignity that, together with the people, expressed the desire for change. All political prisoners should be sent home without any precautionary measure. Persecution against activists must end.

Furthermore, we need to question the prison system and develop policies to end this logic sooner rather than later. We must understand the link that exists between the precariousness of life and crime, even more so in the case of women. A majority of incarcerated women are mothers and have between 2 and 3 children. Where is the “humanitarian law” for these women? In turn, it is necessary to understand that the system punishes poverty and anyone considered “antisocial” for not adjusting to the parameters of “citizenship” that the very system imposes on us.

Liberate all political prisoners!

Judgment, punishment and common prison for all yesterday´s and today´s human rights violators!

Dignity for all political prisoners and incarcerated minors!