SANTIAGO – A score of meetings among Cabinet ministers and other political appointees from the outgoing and incoming governments were held on Thursday to coordinate the transition ahead of the inauguration of Sebastian Piñera as Chile’s president.
Such meetings have been taking place for weeks, but Thursday was the first day that all government ministries and agencies were involved.
Incumbent Michelle Bachelet’s term ends on March 11, when she will hand over to Piñera, who previously served as president from 2010 to 2014.
One of the first sessions of the day was at La Moneda palace between current Interior Minister Mario Fernandez and his successor, Andres Chadwick.
The two men addressed issues including violence in the southern region of Araucania and the embezzlement and evidence-tampering scandals plaguing the Carabineros, Chile’s militarized national police force.
“Carabineros is an institution that serves under the Interior (ministry), and it was certainly a part of the conversation,” Fernandez said, without going into details.
The force has recently been under fire for “Pacogate,” which has so far seen 127 people 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.
“We believe that the state and the institutions in charge of criminal prosecution and public security can respond in a more efficient manner,” Chadwick said, adding that “the main objective is to ensure people’s security and the rights of the victims of violence.”
Referring to the conflict between the Carabineros and the AG Office, he said that this is something that “cannot happen.”
Mapuche militants in Araucania are seeking to reclaim lands lost during a late-19th-century “pacification” campaign against the indigenous people of southern Chile.
The Mapuches make up around 650,000 of Chile’s 17 million people and are concentrated in Araucania and greater Santiago.