Dictatorship methods still reign in “democratic” Chile

The last years in Chile have been characterised by social and political convulsions, with the heroic student movement - which has organised mass demonstrations, occupations and strikes periodically over 10 years – at the forefront. This is part of a wave of radicalisation and struggle, as the post-dictatorship “democratic” model itself moves into crisis.

One of the features of this period has been the continuing legacy of Chile’s brutal dictatorship. While formally extinct, the “Transition” to democracy left intact the dictatorship’s state machine and even constitution! This lingering presence has recently been highlighted in the brutal methods of state repression and torture employed against protestors, including Socialismo Revolucionario (SR - CWI) members.

Dictatorship torture methods used against 15 year-old CWI member

While repression has been universally applied against protesting students, one particular recent case involving TC, a 15 year-old member of the CWI has highlighted the continuing use of the dictatorship’s repression and torture methods. Arrested along with a colleague for the crime of carrying a suspicious bag (a school bag!), he was arrested. Once hauled into a police van, he was beaten brutally by multiple police officers.

During this beating, the police employed the well-known torture technique called “the telephone” against the 15 year-old TC. This involves punching the victim in both ears at the same time, causing them to lose balance and consciousness while beatings and mistreatment continue. When the van arrived at the station, the comrade’s injuries were recorded officially. However, he was then immediately placed in a choke-hold around his neck, suspended in the air and carried violently by the throat down flights of stairs, cutting off his breathing.

This horrific episode shows that Chilean capitalism continues to be willing to employ brutal methods in order to intimidate workers and youth. Our tortured comrade reported that throughout his ordeal, his abusers shouted again and again that this was the result of protesting, and that he had better stay at home in future.

SR members and supporters acted immediately. The progressive parents and guardians organisation OPAM, launched by CWI members, demanded and won an audience with the chief of the Supreme Court within 24 hours.

This one incident is symptomatic of the wider problem of state torture and repressive methods. Torture is not even a crime in Chile, and allegations of police abuses are dealt with by secretive military courts which encourage impunity. There have also been widespread reports of sexual harassment and abuse of young girls on protests by security forces. While the focus has been on student protests, workers organisations and indigenous peoples have been subjected to the same methods, and worse.

SR argues that only mass struggle can bring an end to this injustice. Such a struggle must demand an end to repression and torture, a dismantling of the dictatorship’s repressive forces, the tearing up of the Pinochet constitution and a new Constituent assembly, democratic control over security forces, linking the struggle for these democratic demands with a struggle against capitalism and for socialist change.

This potentially provides the basis for a mass united struggle. SR and OPAM are in discussions with other students’, women’s and indigenous organisations on the launching of a significant anti repression anti-torture campaign in the very near future. The CWI and its supporters internationally will have a key role to play and comrades around the world must be on standby to take action.

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