Tensions resurface over political reform
The difficulties created by the RN’s commitment to political reform continued to strain relations within the governing coalition this week. On Tuesday, senior figures from Renovación Nacional (National Renewal – RN), a member of the governing coalition, and the opposition Partido Demócrata Cristiano (Christian Democrat Party – DC) met to begin further work on their proposals for political reform.
A fortnight ago, the two parties had released a shared document which called for a change to a semi-presidential system and a more proportionate electoral system. The release of the document sparked a serious row with the RN’s coalition partners, Unión Demócrata Independiente (UDI- Independent Democratic Union), who are opposed to political reform.
After the meeting, Larraín was quick to state that he would prioritise the reaching of a consensus within the coalition, but that the DC and the RN would meet in March or April to see if they could work together on bringing the reforms forward.
The renewed cooperation between the RN and the DC, however, appears to have once again unsettled the UDI who had thought the debate on reform had been stifled following a high level meeting last week. In response, the UDI’s secretary general, Víctor Pérez, reminded Larraín of his earlier commitment that issues of political reform would be dealt with ‘exclusively’ within the governing coalition. UDI deputy, Felipe Ward, was even more emphatic stating that Larraín had done ‘exactly the opposite of what had been agreed’.
Chileans arrested for espionage in Peru
Elsewhere, there was surprise this week when two Chileans were arrested in Peru on suspicion of ‘espionage’. The first man detained was Luis Seraín Gutiérrez who was arrested on Monday while taking photos and sketching in a restricted area of the Los Patos military base. His surprised mother and sister told the press that they were ‘concerned’ but that it could only be ‘a misunderstanding’. The second man, Nicholas Pizarro Mondaca, was arrested for taking photos of military installations.
Chilean Foreign Minister, Alfredo Moreno, denied that the men had any link with the Chilean state and that the arrest would not have any impact on relations between the two countries. He stated that the Chilean embassy would offer support to the men but that ultimately it was for the Peruvian justice system to determine whether the men should be charged.
Relations between Chile and Peru are stable but difficult. The two countries are currently engaged in a border dispute at the International Court of Justice in the Hague with Peru arguing that it should have sovereignty over an area some 100 000 km2 of the Pacific Ocean which Chile currently has. Furthermore, last January a Peruvian national was detained in Chile while photographing a high technology radar at a Chilean military base. The individual remains in preventative detention.
New Human Rights sub-secretariat created
Also this week, President Piñera in an act with Justice Minister, Teodoro Ribera, announced the creation of a new sub secretariat of Human Rights within the Ministry of Justice. The sub secretariat has been created to address the dispersion of powers on human rights issues which currently exists in Chile. The functions of the new body will be to respond to judgements presented against Chile in international tribunals and the cooperate with other human rights groups in the country, such as the Institute of Human Rights. Piñera stated that the new institution was a ‘clear show of the commitment of the Government and President to create a culture of respect and protection of human rights’.