Corruption scandals are plaguing Chile’s militarized police, known in English as the Carabiniers, as former-Captain Leonardo Osses was charged with obstruction of justice on February 23. Meanwhile, fallout from Operation Hurricane, an investigation into radical Mapuche activists in the Araucanía region, is causing institutional clashes between the police and state prosecutors.
Operation Hurricane is the largest scandal currently concerning the Carabiniers. Officers are accused of having falsified evidence against Mapuche land rights activists who were subsequently acquitted. Mapuche groups are intent on pursuing punishment for the officers involved and have called for the removal of Bruno Villalobos, the current general director of the Carabiniers.
Villalobos was already facing pressure to resign following a tax scandal in 2017, yet President Michelle Bachelet’s New Majority coalition chose to allow Villalobos to remain in his post. Let’s Go Chile, the coalition of incoming President Sebastián Piñera, remains divided on whether to take action against Villalobos. Piñera has previously promised to overhaul and modernize the Carabiniers, which would give the organization an increased preventative role in citizen security.
Investigations into the scandal are proving even more damaging to the image of the Carabiniers, causing Villalobos to take a vacation from his role. Cristán Paredes, the regional prosecutor that is leading the Carabiniers investigation, claims that he is being persecuted by Diplocar, the Carabiniers intelligence unit. Before these claims, Paredes tried to perform an authorized raid on the Carabiniers barracks in Araucanía, but they refused to cooperate.
The accusations against one of Chile’s previously trusted and admired institutions combined with corruption scandals in the military led to Chile’s drop in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index for 2017. Piñera’s incoming government will face an uphill battle to restore the legitimacy of the important policing institution.