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LATIN AMERICA | 24-12-2019 09:41

Chile tells Argentina not to comment on 'internal policy situations'

Foreign Ministry in Santiago contacts Felipe Solá to complain about comments made by Alberto Fernández, after Peronist leader highlights number of those arrested during protests in neighbouring country.

Chile has told Argentina to keep its nose out of its internal business, after comments from President Alberto Fernández on the number of arrests made during the two months of protests that have swept the country.

The Foreign Ministry in Santiago asked Buenos Aires to avoid giving opinions "internal policy situations" after Fernández said in an interview over the weekend that his counterpart, Sebastián Piñera, hgad "put 2,500 people in jail" during the crisis in Chile

Chile's Foreign Minister Teodoro Ribera contacted his Argentine counterpart, Felipe Solá, to express "his surprise" at Fernández's comments.

The Argentine leader was responding to a question regarding a report on the crisis in Venezuela issued by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, led by former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet.

"I remembered just days ago when I received Venezuelan human rights organisations back in 2013, when [Nicolás] Maduro, after a demonstration, arrested 800 people. [Sebastián] Piñera put 2,500 people in jail and nobody said anything," Fernández said over the weekend.

Branding the comments "strange," Chile's Foreign Ministry said Ribera had reminded Solá about the "advisability of not issuing opinions on domestic policy situations in their respective countries."

Ribera reportedly added him that in Chile "there is a full rule of law and that, in that context, it is not the President of the Republic, but the Police, the Public Ministry and the Courts of Justice and the institutions that have powers to stop, investigate, prosecute and convict those responsible for crimes."

The National Institute of Human Rights (NHRI) reported Tuesday that up until November 30, 8,492 people have been arrested, of which 1,013 were children and adolescents.

According to Chile's Interior Ministry, 24 people have died in the unrest

Referendum on Constitution

On Monday, Piñera enacted a law  that will allow the South American country to hold a referendum on April 26 to change its military dictatorship-era Constitution.

Changing the Constitution enacted under former dictator general Augusto Pinochet, who ruled from 1973-90, was one of the main demands made against the president as he bids to end two months of protests against his government and inequality.

"This reform opens the doors and defines a path to achieve a great constitutional agreement," said Piñera in signing into law a bill approved last week by Congress.

Many Chileans believe the Constitution to be a source of many inequalities affecting them.

They will be asked two questions on April 26: do they want a new constitution and who should draft it. The second question refers to whether or not those tasked with the redrafting should be specifically elected by the public to do so, for example in the formation of a new constitution assembly.

The government favours a committee made up half of existing lawmakers and half by a new group elected directly by the public to draft the constitution, while the opposition prefers a committee made up entirely of specifically elected members.

The decision to hold a referendum to change the constitution was reached following an agreement last month between the government and left-wing opposition parties and came just two days after particularly violent protests.

Piñera signed the enactment at the presidential palace in the company of socialist former president Ricardo Lagos, who 15 years ago introduced a number of significant constitutional reforms.

Should Chileans vote to redraft the Constitution, a new poll to elect those responsible for the task in hand would be held in October 2020, during regional and municipal elections.

The constitutional body would then have nine months to come up with a new text, a deadline which could be extended by a further three months.

"This referendum, the first in 30 years, should serve us in leaving behind the violence and divisions that we've painfully and sadly seen resurging these last few days," said Piñera.

One of the protesters main demands is that Piñera resign.

The president initially opposed to constitutional reform when he was elected to replace socialist Michelle Bachelet last year.

– TIMES/AFP

 

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