SANTIAGO – Foreign Minister Teodoro Ribera said on Thursday that the Chilean government would ask the United Nations to send human rights observers to monitor the nationwide protests that erupted last week and that have resulted in 18 deaths.
President Sebastian Piñera was preparing to contact UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet – who also happens to be his predecessor as Chile’s leader – to ask her to deploy a team of rapporteurs, the foreign ministry said.
Bachelet, meanwhile, after receiving Piñera’s request on Thursday, announced that she will send the rapporteurs to Chile to investigate potential violations of basic liberties during the recent protests.
“Having monitored the crisis in #Chile since it began, I have decided to send a verification mission to examine the allegations of #HumanRights violations,” she said on her official Twitter account.
“Parliamentarians and the Government have both expressed a desire for a @UNHumanRights mission,” added Bachelet, who on Monday had called for dialogue between the Chilean government and civil society to “calm the situation.”
Cities and even entire regions of Chile remain under a army-administered state of emergency involving nightly curfews and the presence of troops and tanks on the streets, though Piñera said Thursday that the government is working on a “normalization plan” to reduce the curfew periods.
“Our aim is to move forward with the greatest force, but also with complete prudence in this process of normalization to be able to end the curfew and, I hope, also to be able to lift the states of emergency,” he said in public remarks.
The chief justice of Chile’s Supreme Court, Haroldo Brito, said Thursday that at least 425 of the nearly 5,400 people detained in the protests were arrested unlawfully.
The National Human Rights Institute (INDH), an autonomous, publicly funded entity, in its latest tally on Wednesday evening said that a total of 2,410 people were under arrest nationwide.
Of those, 898 arrests were made in Santiago, where on Wednesday about 100,000 people congregated on the Plaza Italia to demonstrate their discontent with the austerity policies of the right-wing government.
Brito also said that the judiciary has investigated allegations of torture inside police stations.
Members of the security forces are responsible for at least five of the 18 protest-related fatalities.
Regarding the people injured in the disturbances, the INDH said that the figure stands at 535 since last Thursday, when the demonstrations protesting the hike in Santiago Metro fares erupted.
Many of the wounded were struck by rubber bullets and even, in some cases, live ordnance.
In addition, the INDH verified instances of torture and abuse by security forces during the protests.
The lower house of Chile’s Congress on Thursday approved establishing an investigatory commission to probe the government’s handling of the protests.
The bill to form the commission was approved by a vote of 67-31 with 14 abstentions.
The increase in the Metro fare sparked the wave of protests that, over the subsequent days, were fueled by the public’s anger over low retirement pensions and salaries along with the high costs of electricity, gas, university education and healthcare, all of which resulted in a social outburst the size and vehemence of which has not been seen since the end of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship in 1990.