On Monday, Santiago de Chile’s leafy borough of Providencia was unexpectedly disturbed by loud protests, tear gas and violent clashes with members of the police. As a prosperous and largely residential ‘comuna’, this area has managed to stay out of the firing line of protests over the last six months. Surprisingly, it was Providencia’s mayor himself, the ex-army colonel Cristián Labbé, who was the cause of the unexpected unrest. A member of the extreme right and close friend to General Pinochet’s family, Labbé organised an event to launch the fourth edition of a book by Gisela Silva Encina called ‘Miguel Krassnoff, imprisoned for serving Chile’. The title is a controversial one given that Krassnoff is widely acknowledged to have been one of the one of the worst oppressors during Pinochet’s regime, associated with the ‘disappearance’ of many members of the opposition in the months following the 1973 coup. He was sentenced to 144 years imprisonment.
A protest against the homage to Krassnoff by citizens affected by the deaths and disappearances as a result of the dictatorship began outside the gates of Club Providencia where the book launch was held. In response to shouted abuse, eggs and paint throwing, the police force saw fit to violently intervene. They employed an excessive amount of tear gas, such that the nearby residents not involved in the protest were affected, and water canon at close range, one woman being hit in the stomach by a water bomb at a distance of only a couple of metres. In doing so, the police showed implicit support for those who applaud a notorious criminal. Surely, something must be wrong here?
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