LatinNews Daily Report - 26 June 2013

Tensions rise ahead of Chile primaries

Development: On 25 June President Sebastián Piñera said that his government would “fulfil its duty” and ensure that the 13m Chileans registered to vote in the 30 June presidential primaries would be able to do so.

Significance: Some of the schools due to serve as voting centres are currently occupied by protesting secondary school students. While President Piñera said that his administration “would continue to seek dialogue” with the students, his remarks were widely considered a threat against those that are refusing to leave the premises. According to the Chilean association of municipalities (AChM), 14 voting centres are currently being occupied. The students’ intransigence is fuelling concerns about potential violence ahead of the vote. In a recent (23 June) TV debate the presumptive 2013 presidential candidate for the opposition Concertación coalition, Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010), called on the authorities to prevent a “blood bath”, a comment that earned her a harsh rebuke from the government spokesperson, Cecilia Pérez.

Key points:

  • The government has drawn up a plan providing for evictions in those schools where fewer students are on site. It is also identifying alternative voting centres to those schools occupied by a greater numbers of students. Defence Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter and other government officials have been clear that the responsibility for carrying out evictions will lie with the Carabineros police and not the military.
  • Further fuelling tensions yesterday the parents of one student leader, Pedro Aguilera, the president of the students’ centre at the Manuel Barros Borgoño secondary school in Santiago, presented a complaint against the Carabineros’ special forces for alleged torture during a 13 June forceful eviction. The Carabineros general director, Gustavo González, is due to appear in congress to clarify the incident.
  • Students from the Instituto Nacional, one of Chile’s most prestigious public schools, yesterday voted to end their occupation of the school premises after nearly a month. This followed the resignation on 19 June of the school’s dean, Jorge Toro, one of the various demands presented by the students, who are unhappy with the institute’s administration.