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Who was behind the bombings?
Arnaldo Pérez Guerra
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Authorities seek harder stance with controversial Anti-terrorist Law after attacks.

A bomb in Santiago that wounded 14 people has lead President Michelle Bachelet to call for the use of the dictatorship-era Anti-terrorism Act, despite declaring during her campaign that she wouldn’t use the law as she had in her previous term (2006-2010), and that it would be modified to comply with “international norms.”

Bachelet invoked the law after seeing the injured from the Sept. 8 explosion in the Juan Maestro restaurant, inside the Escuela Militar metro station in the capital’s eastern neighborhood of Las Condes. Calling the blast an “abominable act,” the president said the government “will use the full weight of the law, even invoking the Anti-terrorism Act.”

This wasn’t the first such attack. In July, there were blasts at Los Dominicos metro station, ATM machines, and a church — and in the days after the latest bombing, several devices detonated at a supermarket and a shopping center in Viña del Mar, wounding three people.

The bomb threats have continued. Authorities have deployed thousands of police into subway stations and on TranSantiago bus network. However, on Sept. 26, another bomb exploded in a neighborhood of the capital, killing a young man.

Although no group initially claimed the metro attack, suspicion turned to what officials said were “anarchist and ex-subversive groups.”

Manipulated information
From early on, lawyers and human rights advocates warned of the government’s desperation to find those responsible for the attacks.

Deputy secretary of the Interior Mahmud Aleuy said early on that a Chevrolet Corsa was used as a getaway car. According to the official, police investigators were looking into what witnesses described as “two young people who left a bag where the explosion happened and fled quickly” in the white vehicle. However, the Prosecution office countered that those were “police agents.”

The National Television Council received complaints about Channel 13, for their Sept. 9 report “X-Ray of Student Groups” and a 24 Horas news program story that linked student organizations to the bombings without evidence.

The Institute of Communication and Image at the University of Chile expressed outrage: “We believe this form of journalism is reminiscent of the darkest moments in Chile, when information was manipulated and distorted by a few, causing fear and misinformation.”

Melissa Sepúlveda, head of the University of Chile Student Federation (FECH), posted on Twitter: “We reject the criminalization of the student movement in the crude story by Channel 13.  [We demand to] stop with the opportunism in the coverage of such serious events.”

President of the Journalists Association Javiera Olivares criticized newspaper La Segunda for the headline about the bombing that read: “The Return of Fear.”

“They are creating fear,” she said. “They aren’t helping with a democratic debate.”

On Sept. 18, the Chilean national holiday, three young people were detained and accused of carrying out the bombing. Their lawyer Eduardo Camus said “they denied participating in the event” and “the conditions in which they are detained don’t allow for a private interview.”

According to police, they were arrested after investigators obtained information about “possible attacks they would carry out on the occasion of the Te Deum and during the military parade.” They are accused of belonging to a supposed anarchist group called “Conspiracy of Cells of Fire,” which claimed responsibility the same day the three defendants were arrested.

Anti-terrorist logic
The right wing agrees with the ruling party about the need to create a Ministry of Public Security and toughen the anti-terrorism law.

Two months ago, the government was planning to reform or repeal the law, which was passed in 1984 during the military dictatorship (1973-90). It doubles the sentences established by the penal code for arson, homicide and kidnapping, allows the use of “faceless” witnesses, restricts access to precautionary measures and extends the allowed period for administrative detention. Now the government wants to harden the law and establish a new intelligence program.

To that end, it was announced that the team investigating attacks would be strengthened, as would cooperation with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Chilean national television program 24 Horas reported on Sept. 9 that the Interior Ministry would coordinate investigations with the FBI.

The day after the attack on the Escuela Militar station, the Directorate for Intelligence, Drug and Criminal Investigations was created under the country’s national police force, known as Carabineros. The controversial general Bruno Villalobos Krumm was named as the head of the new division. According to journalist Matías Rojas, he was accused in 2011 by former police officials of involvement in “grave violations of the privacy of lawmakers, social movement leaders, lawyers and one foreign diplomat, whose phones were tapped during secret investigations for (the purposes) of extortion and espionage.”

Reporter Felipe Ramírez said, “the United States wants Bachelet to agree to take prisoners from Guantánamo and accept the [US] intervention in the Middle East, as well as restructure the security organization and armed forces under US advisement and financing. The atmosphere of insecurity that we’re seeing could be a determining factor in Bachelet accepting these conditions.”

It has also been confirmed that the National Intelligence Agency (ANI), will use “undercover agents,” although its director, Gustavo Villalobos, told El Mercurio that there is currently the capability to “use informants, not undercover agents.”

Lawyer Myrna Villegas said, “they want to reform the law [that created] the ANI and [establish] a new national intelligence system. The law has a broad scope, and it is being used. I think it’s a media issue; in some way, they are asking for a bigger budget. It’s an anti-terrorism logic designed in the United States. I call it ‘terrorism paranoia’.”

Senator Jaime Quintana points the finger at “groups of former agents linked to the dictatorship,” while the Movimiento Patriótico Manuel Rodríguez said it was “obvious that the bomb, placed in public transportation at a peak hour, helps and reinforces the repressive policies of the Chilean government and state.”

According to the group, “It’s the perfect excuse needed to justify a series of ongoing punitive measures, trying to temper social protest. They need the existence of an internal enemy to justify vigilance and repression against the people or to divert attention from real problems. The origin of the perpetrators of this attack generates doubts. Chile — Bachelet in particular — has recently been condemned by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for the arbitrary repression against the Mapuche people and their leadership.”
—Latinamerica Press.


Massive police deployment after subway attack in Santiago. (Photo: Arnaldo Pérez)
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