Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera has condemned police forces for using “excessive force” and committing “crimes” while dealing with anti-government protesters in the last four weeks.
“There was excessive use of force. Abuses and crimes were committed, and the rights of all were not respected,” said Pinera of the violent protests that have claimed 22 lives and left over 2,000 wounded over the past month.
The protests initially began over a now-suspended metro fare hike, but later evolved into an expression of outrage over what the protesters view as social and economic inequality as well as an entrenched political elite that hails from a small number of the wealthiest families in the country.
During the protests, numerous reports have emerged of police violence and human rights violations, prompting the United Nations and prominent rights group Amnesty International to dispatch teams to the South American state to probe the accusations.
In his speech, Pinera pledged that “there will be no impunity, not for those who committed acts of unusual violence, nor for those who committed excesses and abuses. We will do what is best for the victims.”
The president further hailed a decision taken last week to draft a new constitution in response to the people’s demands for major changes.
The existing constitution dates back to the era of General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship from 1973 to 1990.
“In the last four weeks, Chile has changed. Chileans have changed. The government has changed. We have all changed,” Pinera noted.
He assured the nation, however, that “the outcome of these four weeks is not yet written,” and that several more changes were needed to be made, including reforming the pension system.
Chilean lawmakers agreed Friday to hold a plebiscite in April 2020, which will ask voters whether the constitution should be replaced and if so, how a new charter should be drafted.
Many Chileans see the plan to replace the constitution as a positive change that will help alleviate their economic woes.
A survey published Sunday by the consulting firm Cadem revealed that the majority of Chileans were in favor of drafting a new constitution. The poll also indicated that Pinera’s popularity had risen four percent over the past week.