Filed under: International Coverage
By: La Zarzamora
The following is an English translation of an article from the independent feminist media outlet La Zarzamora, contextualizing two recent explosive attacks carried out against the prison system in Santiago and providing a wider view of the crisis inside the prisons in so-called Chile.
The gendarmerie are one of two police forces in Chile; the carabineros patrol the streets, highways and borders while the gendarmerie are specifically the police (guards) of courts and prisons.
In the evening of Tuesday, December 28, two Molotov cocktails were thrown in the parking lot of the Centro de Reinserción Social Santiago Norte, in the district of Recoleta, striking two cars. This action took place just one day after an explosive device was detonated in the National Directorate of Gendarmerie, smashing a window and causing damage to an office. Both of these actions took place in Santiago, Chile, within the context of a serious prison crisis silenced and made invisible by hegemonic power and the mainstream media: the constant denunciations of abuse carried out by the gendarmerie, the denunciations of torture against political prisoners, and the shocking suicide of a prisoner in Santiago 1 on December 24, while a large part of society was celebrating Christmas Eve.
“A few hours before Christmas, a brother took his life in the prison of Santiago 1, module 26. We found out because imprisoned brothers gave us the news. They have been shouting for hours but nobody responds, nobody answers, there are desperate cries throughout the module seeking help, but nobody responds, we are in the street trying to do the same, calling a phone or someone from the institution but nobody responds, nobody answers. It is Christmas and they are all occupied with that…
They say his name is Javier, we only know that for the moment. A cruel photo that, according to the inmates, was made viral by the same gendarmerie who found him hanged…nobody responds, nobody does anything. They are prisoners, nobody cares, we are occupied preparing Christmas…this is the cruel reality and critical prison situation in Chile…”
— Testimony released by prisoners of Santiago 1 on December 24, 2021
Almost two years have passed since covid exacerbated the prison situation in the country. Widespread contagions have been accompanied by innumerable denunciations of overcrowding, prolonged isolation, unjustified transfers, and the suspension of visits. These denunciations show the poor conditions faced by the prison population and the constant institutional violence of the prison institution.
In general, the prison system is in a crisis which has been dragging on since long before the pandemic, denounced for decades by diverse organizations working on prison issues. An example of such crisis was the institutional assassination of 81 prisoners in the San Miguel prison who burned to death in 2010 due to the indifference of the gendarmerie. In spite of the witnesses testifying that the prison functionaries were drunk and that they refused to open the doors and provide help, none of the guards were punished.
Currently, that same prison is being used to lock up accused women, and little has changed. Rather, the changes have been regressive, as in the rest of the prison establishments, both private and state-run. In San Miguel, imprisoned women have denounced the lack of water, and having to deliver babies without medical attention. Also in San Miguel, anarchist political prisoner Monica Caballero is being held captive under constant isolation and harassment.
If being in prison and living without agency isn’t already brutal punishment in itself, when the case is political and seeks to protect the order of capitalist patriarchy and its reproductive institutions, the carceral system multiplies its tortuous expressions of oppression. It does so by acting in conjunction with the judicial system to impede any type of benefit that might permit the freedom of those who carry out actions in order to subvert the passivity of social obedience.
The reality of subversive and anarchist prisoners, Mapuche prisoners, and prisoners of the 2019 revolt is marked by constant harassment from all of the institutions involved in the reproduction of the established social order beneath the interests of the corporate state. There are still those condemned by military justice, a parallel judicial apparatus to civil justice, which should be made obsolete. However, it continues maintaining combatants in prison, as is the case of Marcelo Villarroel.
A few days ago, ex-prisoner of the revolt, Elias Quero, who was detained in the CDP of Puente Alto, denounced a serious beating he received from a jailer nicknamed “the Nazi” together with other officers. The beating left him with a fractured rib and internal bleeding. The beating was carried out with a piece of iron covered with electrical tape, a common “technique” of torture used in the everyday aggressions by gendarmerie personnel. The young person shared that they are evaluating legal actions against those responsible. However, the outlook is not very positive considering that those responsible for the death of the 81 people in San Miguel continue in absolute impunity.
On the other hand, there are many cases of people who are detained with serious illnesses which are daily worsening due to the lack of pertinent medical attention. One such case is that of anarchist prisoner, Francisco Solar, who just a few days ago claimed two past direct actions, one directed against the businessman, former minister of the government of Piñera, and persecutor of anarchists, Rodrigo Hinzpeter. Francisco suffers from advanced diabetes which has kept him in a delicate state of health, and which worsens daily without access to a specific diet or adequate treatment.
Another very serious case is that of Bayron Soto Rojas, a 22-year-old prisoner being held in Valdiva who suffers from stage 3 testicular cancer, affecting him now for nearly six months. Today, Bayron is in the ICU in the hospital of Valdiva, with a metastasis that has affected his brain, leaving him with half of his body paralyzed. This situation motivated his defense team to request a presidential pardon. However, up to this moment, he has been held shackled to his stretcher by the gendarmerie.
This case reminds us of two other very sensitive cases. One being the death of Keisy Vigoroux in 2020 due to stage 4 kidney cancer, while she was in the COF of San Joaquin waiting for a presidential pardon from the criminal Piñera. The other case was the shackled delivery of the Mapuche political prisoner, Lorenza Cayuhan, who was forced to give birth chained to the stretcher by personnel of the disgusting institution.
Mapuche political prisoners, in spite of their rights as part of a people who preexisted colonization, rights guaranteed by convention 169 of the ILO, live in constant and forced cultural assimilation, in a place where they are doubly alienated from their cosmovision and cultural practices. There exist no guarantees for them, neither inside nor outside the prison. This was made clear once again after the recent hunger strike of Mapuche prisoner Carolina Marileo, who after 31 days of mobilization, recently achieved a “commitment” on part of the institution to respect her rights which are guaranteed by international law. Similarly, none of the international treaties such as the UN Nelson Mandela Rules, which should guarantee dignified treatment for prisoners, nor the Bangkok Rules, created to guarantee the rights of women prisoners, are actually respected.
So, how do we as “ordinary” people face the abuses, verbal aggressions, theft, physical aggressions, sexual aggressions, and humiliation by the functionaries of this institution? What could a person do from behind the bars to defend themselves from an institution of power? What happens to a prisoner who breaks the silence? What has happened with the prisoners who are abused and raped? What happened with the prisoner of Valdivia who tried to immolate herself?
Neither the efforts of abolitionist organizations, nor the denunciations and remote entries of the National Institute of Human Rights with small inspections, nor the public denunciations in social media, nor the justice of the state, have achieved any change in the practices of the jailers and their carceral system. And the prison in its role as agent of social reinsertion is nothing more than a justification without substance, of an effective and millionaire business, the prison business.
For this reason, it is not surprising that the gendarmerie has become an intergenerational target in the struggle against domination. This struggle has even left painful losses, as was the death of Mauricio Morales, May 22, 2009, while he was installing an explosive device in the Gendarmerie School. This action was perhaps motivated by the same rage that this week motivated the two attacks against the same institution.
The first action of this week (the early morning of Monday, December 27) was claimed by “La Negra Venganza” who expressed their motivations through a communique:
Our attack seeks to break their veil of tranquility and impunity, and we won’t rest…
Remembering with action the 81 prisoners murdered in the fire of the San Miguel prison, where the gendarmerie, with approval of the government in office, let 81 prisoners burn to death. The walls of that place continue to enclose and torture like a human meat-grinder.
We bring to memory in this instant the untamable life of Kevin Garrido, who died inside of a prison in October 2018.
Mister Álvaro Andrés Millanao Valenzuela, warden of La Gonzalina prison, Rancagua: we’ve found out about the constant harassment of our kidnapped siblings, in the dungeons that you, Sr. Millanao, are in charge of.
—Communique published originally by Noticias de la Guerra Social
If only poor people go to prison, if rapists are granted parole year after year after a positive report from the gendarmerie, to the detriment of prisoners for social and political causes, if politicians and businessmen go to ethics classes after robbing millions and on the contrary, while someone accused of theft like Bayron dies slowly under custody and restraint, nothing is right! The whole idea of justice formulated by the state is contrary to the social understanding of justice.
But tomorrow and the day after, the media will condemn those who take justice into their own hands. They will punish those who, with precarious elements, are capable of generating a device with the potential to damage the infrastructure of those who torture and kill with guns, gas, and countless contingents of narco-states, who pounce on everything and everyone and will continue to extort freedom. Whoever refuses to obey risks jail, and whoever obeys, do not believe they are unaware of this, because if they are poor, they will always run the risk. Action only makes the risk more dignified.Tags: Mapuche