SANTIAGO – The director of the Carabineros, Chile’s militarized national police, submitted his resignation on Monday to new President Sebastian Piñera amid embezzlement and evidence-tampering scandals plaguing the force.
“I have accepted the resignation of Bruno Villalobos from the position of director general of the Carabineros as part of our program to become more efficient in fighting crime, drug trafficking and terrorism,” Piñera told the press at La Moneda palace.
The conservative head of state said he hopes to progress during his administration “with force and decisiveness” toward “an in-depth modernization of the Carabineros and the Investigative Police (PDI),” with the focus firmly placed on reforming the intelligence system and the coordination among police, prosecutors and judges.
In that context, he said he will also do more to rehabilitate the prison population and reintegrate it into society, perfect penal law and reinforce the role of municipalities in reducing crime and drug trafficking.
“In that way we can improve the safety of our country’s citizens and move toward a life of greater peace and tranquility for the families of Chile,” the president said.
Piñera was sworn-in this Sunday as president for the second time, and during the afternoon had a brief, tense meeting with Villalobos, to whom he had said “we have to talk.”
Villalobos headed the institution in the midst of “Pacogate,” which exploded in 2016 and has so far seen 127 officers arrested on charges of embezzling roughly $44 million.
And the crisis worsened when a conflict broke out a few weeks ago between the Carabineros and the Attorney General’s Office, which accused the force of tampering with evidence against Mapuche militants accused of torching several dozen trucks in Araucania.
Villalobos was named director general of the Carabineros by President Michelle Bachelet in 2015, and should have held that position until 2019.
The person who will assume that office in an interim manner is the current deputy director, Julio Pineda, until a new director general is named.