Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera sent a bill to congress on Monday to strengthen protections for the country’s security forces after two months of unrest that has rattled one of Latin America’s strongest economies.
The crisis started over a hike in public transport fares and has left at least 26 dead and thousands injured. It also has sparked fierce internal criticism of the government, as well as by international human rights groups and the United Nations for alleged human rights violations by its police and its army, which was briefly called onto the streets.
Pinera said more than 2,500 police officers had been injured in the unrest, some seriously.
“Our government, as well as categorically condemning all abuses of the human rights of our citizens, also categorically condemns the aggression, mistreatment, humiliation that often affects our police,” he said while signing the bill.
The draft statute makes attacks on law enforcement officials by rioters an “aggravated” offense, with tougher penalties.
It also blocks offenders convicted of such crimes from applying for parole until they have served at least two-thirds of their sentences.
“What we are looking for with this is to recover the due respect our police deserve, but also to give them the protection that they not only deserve but also need to fulfill their important work,” said Pinera.
The Chilean police said last week it would overhaul its riot squad and was carrying out 856 internal investigations of alleged abuses committed during the protests.