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Human Rights Watch (HRW) launched its 2020 World Report, covering the most important human rights events and developments in more than 100 countries around the world. One of the countries analyzed every year is Chile. However, this time around, the recently published report—which extends from the end of November 2018 to the end of November 2019—covers the country given the international spotlight it, along with other Latin American countries, has received as a result of the widespread protests at the end of last year.
Right from the start, the report is dedicated to this issue, focusing on the actions of Chile’s security forces, Carabineros, in the context of the protests. In this way, HRW expresses concern not only for the use of excessive force—highlighting the number of wounded protestors, of which 11,000 were treated by the country’s health services—but also for the complaints about “inhuman treatment” and sexual abuse. However, it also mentions incidents caused by protesters, such as looting, burning of public goods, or the almost 2,000 security officers who were injured during the protests.
On the other hand, the report also recognizes positive government responses to the crisis, although it had an uneven evolution. Some examples highlighted in the report include the protocol on the use of force adopted by the Chilean government, the deployment of specialists to train control units so that human rights standards were met, and, in addition, the suspension of the use of rifle shotguns by Carabineros.
Beyond the protests, the report covers other human rights issues in Chile, one of them being the rights of the LGBT+ community. One of the main issues outlined by the report is the right of same-sex couples to marry, and noted a bill was pending in the country’s Senate. Fortunately, one week after the report was published, the body approved the draft bill with 22 votes in favor and 16 against.
Another milestone reached in the last year was the typification of sexual harassment in public spaces, an issue of utmost importance in a country where feminism increasingly holds greater weight in the public agenda. As it does with other countries in Latin America, HRW focuses on restrictive abortion laws. It does, however, recognize that Chile has been making progress on this issue by decriminalizing abortion under certain circumstances through law approved in 2017 (Ley 21030).
Migration also received a lot of attention, given Chile is the country hosting the third largest share of Venezuelan migrants, with around 400,000 immigrants. Although it is true that laws on this subject are being modernized, the report focused on the list of documents and the $30 fee to obtain the “democratic responsibility visa,” which could be an obstacle for some Venezuelans who do not possess any document when fleeing from crisis situations. In regards to Chile’s policy toward Venezuela, the report recognizes the firm position that Chile has taken against the Nicolás Maduro regime in forums such as the United Nations and the Organization of American States.
In recent months, there has been an increasing focus on human rights when discussing the events taking place in Chile. In its report, HRW emphasizes the human rights abuses during last year’s protests committed by Chile’s Carabineros. It also shows how authorities responded to this challenge and the progress (or lack thereof) of these initiatives. It also pays attention to human rights issues that have had a longer history in the country and that continue to affect minorities. The work to guarantee human rights is far from done.