Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 26, 1999.
Chile is a multiparty democracy with
a constitution that provides for a strong executive and a bicameral
legislature. Approved by referendum in 1980 and amended in 1989,
the Constitution was written under the former military government
and establishes institutional limits on popular rule. President
Eduardo Frei, a Christian Democrat, began his 6-year term in 1994.
The National Congress comprises 120 deputies and 48 senators.
The government coalition of six parties holds a majority in the
lower house. An opposition coalition, including several independent
and many of the 10 nonelected senators, controls the upper chamber,
although the senate president is from the ruling coalition. Former
president General Augusto Pinochet retired from the army on March
11 and assumed a lifetime senate seat. The Constitutional Tribunal
rejected a lawsuit that sought to prevent Pinochet from entering
the Senate. Following his assumption of the seat, the Chamber
of Deputies on April 9 rejected an attempt to remove Pinochet
from the Senate. Turnover in the courts has led to a significant
diminution in the influence of General Pinochet's appointees over
the constitutionally independent judicial branch.
The armed forces are constitutionally
subordinate to the President through an appointed Minister of
Defense but enjoy a large degree of legal autonomy. Most notably,
the President must have the concurrence of the National Security
Council, which comprises military and civilian officials, to remove
service chiefs. The Carabineros (the uniformed national police)
have primary responsibility for public order and safety and border
security. The civilian Investigations Police are responsible
for criminal investigations and immigration control. Both organizations--although
formally under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense, which
prepares their budgets--are under operational control of the Ministry
of Interior. The security forces, mainly the police, committed
a number of human rights abuses.
The export-led, free-market economy
experienced its 15th consecutive year of expansion, but growth
moderated in 1998 due to the impact of the Asian and global economic
crises. The most important export remained copper; salmon, forestry
products, fresh fruit, fish meal, and manufactured goods were
also significant sources of foreign exchange. Gross domestic
product (GDP) grew at a 7.1 percent rate in 1997, and inflation
fell to 6.6 percent. Unemployment stood at 7.2 percent, although
it was expected to rise. From 1987 to 1997, the percentage of
the population living below the poverty line decreased from 45
to 23 percent. Annual per capita GDP rose to approximately
$5,300 in 1997.
The Government generally respected
its citizens' human rights; however, there continued to be problems
in some areas. The most serious cases involved torture, brutality,
use of excessive force by the police, and physical abuse in jails
and prisons. Discrimination and violence against women and violence
against children are problems. Discrimination against the disabled
and minorities persists. Many indigenous people remain marginalized.
Child labor is a problem.
Almost all other human rights concerns
are related to abuses during the former military government, primarily
between 1973 and 1978. In October the United Kingdom detained
retired General Pinochet pending resolution of an extradition
request from Spain on charges of genocide and murder. The British
High Court originally ruled that Pinochet had immunity as a former
head of state; however, a November Law Lords panel overturned
that decision. In December the Law Lords set aside their previous
ruling and agreed to reconsider the case. At year's end, another
panel was to hear the case, and Pinochet remained under house
arrest in England.
The detention of General Pinochet
led to a reexamination of what, if anything, could and should
be done to deal with the sometimes conflicting demands for justice
and for national reconciliation. Efforts to bring abusers to
justice in cases dating back to the early years of the military
government often have been stifled by the judiciary. The military
authorities continued to resist a full accounting of the fate
of those persons who had disappeared, and the courts continued
to close, without investigation or prosecution, many cases of
abuse that occurred during the first 5 years of military rule,
citing the 1978 Amnesty Law. Over the past 6 years, the Government
and opposition parties have debated various proposals that effectively
would close all cases covered by the Amnesty Law that are still
under judicial investigation. These efforts largely have stalled,
and the judicial system continued to investigate and either prosecute
or close pending human rights cases.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity
of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial
There were no reports of political
On January 12, taxi driver Raul Palma
Salgado died while in police custody, allegedly as a result of
torture. Four National police members implicated in the death
are under arrest, and the case is in the courts. The Committee
for the Defense of People's Rights (CODEPU) identified Palma's
death as the third instance of suspects dying while in police
custody due to torture or excessive force since 1990. The other
two alleged cases occurred in 1995 and 1997. Legal action continued
in these two earlier cases.
Police used water cannons and tear gas when violence broke out during demonstrations on the anniversary of the September 11, 1973 coup against the Allende government. Two persons died. One was a Communist Party official who apparently suffered a stroke while marching; party officials claimed that the stroke was brought on by tear gas. The other was a 25-year-old woman who was shot under unclear circumstances; at year's end her death was under investigation (see Sections 2.a. and 3).
In December 1996, Pedro Soto Tapia, a 19-year-old military conscript, disappeared from his regiment at San Felipe after having written many letters to his family describing mistreatment at the hands of his superior officers. In March 1997, his remains were found in a cave in San Felipe, accompanied by what was purportedly a suicide note. In February the judge handling the case fell ill and a series of temporary substitutes were named. In September the family's attorneys, assisted by the CODEPU, succeeded in having a new permanent judge named. They continue to allege that Soto's death was a homicide.
Important advances were made in clarifying
events surrounding "Operation Albania," the June 1987
killings of 12 "Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front" (FPMR)
members. The authorities brought charges of use of unnecessary
violence against nine former and current intelligence and security
officers; all were in custody. At year's end, the judge was considering
a motion to raise the charges to aggravated homicide.
Proceedings against General Pinochet
continued in Spain for his alleged responsibility in the deaths,
torture, and disappearance of Spanish and other citizens. On
October 16, authorities in the United Kingdom detained General
Pinochet, who was recovering in London from a back operation,
following the UK's receipt of a Spanish arrest order sent via
Interpol. An extradition request followed. The Spanish request
grew out of two separate Madrid court proceedings (consolidated
into one on October 20 under Judge Baltasar Garzon) involving
persons who were killed, tortured, or who disappeared in Chile
during the military regime. One investigation had focused on
those killed in Chile during the military era, while the other
focused on persons killed outside of Chile in "Operation
Condor," an undercover operation in which several military
governments in the region, led by Chile, cooperated to eliminate
leftist opponents. Judge Garzon and a colleague had spent the
past 2 years collecting evidence and taking testimony regarding
human rights violations in Chile and Argentina during the military
The British High Court ruled on October 28 that Pinochet enjoyed sovereign immunity as a former head of state. This decision was overturned on November 25 by the House of Lords' Law Lords panel, and on December 9 the British Home Secretary decided to allow the extradition process to proceed. On December 17, the Law Lords set aside their previous ruling and agreed to reconsider the case following an appeal from Pinochet's lawyers that one of the deciding judges had not revealed a potential conflict of interest involving his links with one of the parties that supported the Spanish request. At year's end, Pinochet remained in England under house arrest.
Former Chilean intelligence agent
Enrique Arancibia Clavel continued to be detained in Argentina
after an Argentine judge denied his January request to be set
free; this decision was reaffirmed in another court decision in
September. Arancibia is charged with involvement in the 1974
car bombing in Buenos Aires that killed former Chilean army chief
Carlos Prats and his wife, Sofia Cuthbert. The case was reopened
in 1992 as a result of a petition filed by the Prats family containing
new evidence. The Chilean Government has agreed to be a coplaintiff
in the Argentine trial of Arancibia. Legal efforts to gain the
testimony of retired General Manuel Contreras and retired Brigadier
General Pedro Espinoza, former director and operations director,
respectively, of DINA (the army intelligence branch during the
military regime), allegedly implicated in the killing, continued.
Contreras and Espinoza had been convicted in 1993 of the 1976
killings in Washington, D.C. of former Chilean foreign minister
Orlando Letelier and his assistant Ronni Moffitt.
On November 6, the judge investigating
the 1982 death of labor leader Tucapel Jimenez and the related
homicide of carpenter Juan Alegria Mundalca closed the case, ruling
that there was insufficient evidence to bring anyone to trial
for the murders. This decision is being appealed. Four former
agents of the National Intelligence Center (the successor to DINA)
had been under investigation for the killings.
Some alleged perpetrators of human
rights abuses during the military regime remain on active duty
in the army. Army General Sergio Espinoza Davies, who commanded
the United Nations observer mission along the India-Pakistan border,
was accused of being involved in an October 1973 "war council"
that sentenced five socialists to death without due process.
Following the UN's announcement that it would investigate the
charges against him, the Government consulted with the UN. The
issue became moot when General Espinoza Davies, promoted to army
Inspector General, returned to the country in December.
In September Swiss authorities denied
the Government's request for extradition from Switzerland of a
member of the FPMR terrorist group who escaped from prison in
December 1996. The individual was convicted in Chile of killing
a police officer in 1991 (see Section 1.e.).
There were no reports of politically
The major human rights controversy
involved past disappearances and efforts by political forces and
the Government to reinterpret the 1978 Amnesty Law in such a way
as to achieve both justice and national reconciliation. As interpreted
under the so-called Aylwin doctrine (named after former President
Patricio Aylwin), the courts should not close a case involving
a disappearance until either the body is found or credible evidence
is provided to indicate that an individual is dead. This could
affect over 500 cases, which cover about 1,000 persons still classified
as "detained or missing" from the early years of the
military regime. However, application of the Aylwin doctrine
has been uneven, as some courts continue the previous practice
of applying the 1978 amnesty to disappearances without conducting
an investigation to identify the perpetrators.
On December 29, a Supreme Court panel
overruled a 1997 application of the Amnesty Law to the August
1974 disappearance of Alvaro Miguel Barrios Duche. The Supreme
Court ruled that the law only could be applied following the completion
of a full criminal investigation and the identification of the
guilty parties and ordered the military court to begin an investigation
into the case. According to the Social Aid Foundation of Christian
Churches (FASIC), 2 disappearance cases were pending before the
Supreme Court at year's end, with 12 cases having been closed
in 1998 through application of the Amnesty Law; 4 other cases
were closed for other reasons, including 1 temporarily closed
and subject to being reopened. Application of the Amnesty Law
was denied in five cases, with four of these cases reopened; another
case involving a disappearance was reopened under a different
The Supreme Court had sometimes ruled
in the past that when judges receive criminal complaints related
to actions by armed services members in the period covered by
the amnesty (September 11, 1973 to March 10, 1978), they were
required to close the case immediately without further investigations.
In September the Supreme Court revoked the amnesty granted by
a lower court, ruling that the Geneva Convention (on internal
conflicts) was applicable in the 1974 disappearance of Movement
of the Revolutionary Left (MIR) member Pedro Enrique Poblete Cordoba.
At year's end, the case was being investigated.
FASIC, CODEPU, and other human rights
organizations have a total of nine denial-of-justice cases pending
before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) regarding
previously closed disappearance and execution cases. They have
filed 11 cases before the United Nations Committee on Human Rights.
In April the IACHR ruled that 22 previously closed disappearance
cases that had been appealed to the commission should be reopened.
In November France joined Spain in
seeking the extradition of General Pinochet from the United Kingdom,
based on the disappearance of three French citizens in 1973-77.
Switzerland also filed an extradition request for Pinochet.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman,
or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Constitution forbids the "use
of illegal pressure" on detainees, but the CODEPU has received
reports of abuse and mistreatment by both the National police
and the Investigations Police. When requested by other human
rights organizations or family members, CODEPU lawyers visit detainees
during the interrogation (see Section 1.d.) and represent some
suspected terrorists in court. The CODEPU continues to investigate
alleged use of excessive force against detainees. The Minister
of Interior asks the courts to conduct independent investigations
of credible complaints of police abuse, but such investigations
often do not result in arrests, due in part to the reluctance
of judges to pursue the issue vigorously.
FASIC reported in March that it had
received 27 complaints of mistreatment from persons who had been
in police custody during the first 2 months of 1998. Of these
reports, 25 involved the National police and 2 the Investigations
Police. CODEPU reported in January that during the previous year
the authorities had found 13 National police guilty of abuse and
applied administrative sanctions against 11 others whom the courts
had absolved. As of August, 21 cases of alleged police abuse
were pending in the court system.
In March four members of the Investigations
Police allegedly tortured Pedro Navarro Pozo in the city of Castro.
Passers-by heard Navarro's screams and alerted the Chiloe provincial
governor and a judge. The two officials entered the police station
and witnessed an unclothed and handcuffed Navarro being beaten.
The authorities fired the four police officers and indicted them.
At year's end, the case was in the courts.
In June Osvaldo Baeza accused police
in Talca of beating him. Similar charges were made by four minors
also detained in Talca on suspicion of robbery.
According to a press report, the
human rights office of the Metropolitan Legal Aid Office, an arm
of the Justice Ministry, released a report in January stating
that it had received 400 complaints against the police in 1997,
a large increase over previous years. The report stated that
42 cases had been presented to the civilian or military courts
that year. Most of the cases were lodged against the national
police, while four cases involved the Investigations Police.
The report asserted that there was a growing trend of human rights
complaints, as five lawsuits were lodged against the police during
the first 20 days of January.
On July 1, a new law entered into
effect that clarified the illegality of any use of force against
persons detained by the police. The law provides that if a member
of the police force uses "torture or unlawful coercion,"
either physical or mental, or orders them to be applied, or commits
them against a person under arrest or detention, the officer would
be sentenced to imprisonment. Officers who know about the abuse
and have the "necessary power and authority" to prevent
or stop it would also be considered accessories to the crime if
they fail to do so (also see Section 1.d.).
Human rights groups claim that military
recruits sometimes are mistreated. The CODEPU reported that by
the end of June, human rights groups had received 537 complaints
of mistreatment of recruits over the prior 2 years. Of this number,
80 dealt with torture allegations; 46 of these cases are under
judicial investigation, and 18 of the alleged victims are in psychotherapy.
In July, 14 military conscripts stationed
in Puerto Varas filed a legal petition claiming that they were,
among other things, beaten during a military exercise. A military
investigation identified a corporal as directly responsible.
He was removed from the military and is awaiting trial.
A new judge was named to handle the
case of military conscript Pedro Soto Tapia, who alleged mistreatment
in 1996 and whose remains were found in March 1997 (see Section
At year's end, the court of appeals
had not yet ruled on the August 1997 filing by attorneys for Carmen
Gloria Quintana that appealed efforts by the Government to set
aside an award of approximately $600,000 in compensation that
the IACHR had recommended for Quintana in 1988. Army Captain
Pedro Fernandez Dittus set fire to Quintana and her companion
Rodrigo Rojas Denegri while they were participating in a protest
against the military regime in 1986. Rojas died 4 days later,
while Quintana survived with severe and disfiguring injuries.
Prisons are often overcrowded and
antiquated, but the conditions are not life threatening. Food
meets minimal nutritional needs, and prisoners may supplement
the diet by buying food. Those with sufficient funds often can
rent space in a better wing of the prison. Prison guards have
been accused of using excessive force to stop attempted prison
breaks. Although most reports state that the guards generally
behave responsibly and do not mistreat prisoners, several prisoners
have complained of beatings. There were 346 minors in adult prisons
(see Section 5).
The maximum security prison houses
56 prisoners, most of them charged with or convicted of terrorism.
Prisoners continue to complain that strict security measures,
prohibition of visitors, hidden cameras, and rigid regulations
violate their rights. In 1997 the Ministry of Justice confirmed
that there were listening devices in prison cells but said that
they were never used.
The Government permits prison visits
by independent human rights monitors.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention,
The Constitution allows civilian
and military courts to order detention for up to 5 days without
arraignment and to extend the detention of alleged terrorists
for up to 10 days. The law affords detainees 30 minutes of immediate
and subsequent daily access to a lawyer (in the presence of a
prison guard) and to a doctor to verify their physical condition.
The law does not permit a judge to deny such access; police authorities
generally observe these requirements.
In practice, many detainees are not
promptly advised of charges against them, nor are they granted
a speedy hearing before a judge. Early in the year, 7 percent
of the general prison population of 24,791 was under investigation
but not charged with a crime; 44 percent were charged with an
offense and were awaiting trial or had been convicted and were
awaiting sentencing; and 49 percent were serving sentences.
On July 1, a new law entered into
force that eliminated the right of the police to stop persons,
demand identification, and arrest them based on suspicion that
they may have committed a crime. (This right to arrest persons
on suspicion often was used against minors.) The new law also
requires police to inform those detained of their rights and to
expedite notification of the detention to family members. The
law also deals with physical abuse by police against detained
persons (see Section 1.c.). On July 22, the Government legal
aid corporation filed its first lawsuit based on the law. The
lawsuit was filed against a number of Investigations Police officers
for failing to follow the new arrest procedures and for beating
the person arrested.
Police officials failed to investigate
fully an October 1997 allegation that police and military officials
arbitrarily detained Marlene Martinez and her son for questioning
in an effort to coerce the child's father concerning a business
controversy. The September kidnaping of Martinez brought the
case to public attention, prompting two criminal and military
investigations and government acknowledgement of the prior lack
of official diligence.
The Constitution provides for the
right to legal counsel, but this is a reality only for those who
can afford to pay. The poor, who account for the majority of
the cases, may be represented by law students doing practical
training (who often are overworked), on occasion by a court-appointed
lawyer, or by a lawyer from the Government's legal assistance
corporation. The Constitution allows judges to set bail.
There were no cases of forced exile.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution calls for a judicial
system independent of the other branches of government. Although
the judiciary, and particularly the Supreme Court, has been dominated
in the past by appointees of the former military regime, turnover
in the courts has led to a significant diminution of that influence.
Cases decided in the lower courts can be referred to appeals courts and ultimately to the Supreme Court. Criminal court judges are appointed for life. In December 1997, constitutional reforms were approved that set 75 as the age limit for Supreme Court justices, gave the Senate the right to approve or disapprove presidential nominees to the Court, and increased court membership from 17 to 21. Of the 21 justices on the Supreme Court, only 3 were appointed under the military regime.
The Supreme Court prepares lists
of nominees for the Supreme Court and appeals courts, from which
the President makes appointments. The Senate must approve nominees
to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court continues to work with
the other branches of government on broad judicial reform.
The jurisdiction of military tribunals
is limited to cases involving military personnel. If formal charges
are filed in civilian courts against a member of the military,
including the National police, the military prosecutor asks for,
and the Supreme Court normally grants, military jurisdiction.
This is of particular consequence in the human rights cases from
the period covered by the 1978 Amnesty Law. In addition, military
courts have the authority to charge and try civilians for defamation
of military personnel and for sedition. Rulings by military tribunals
can be appealed to the Supreme Court.
In September 1997, President Frei
signed a judicial reform law that created the post of Attorney
General and a related ministry that are expected to be in full
operation by 2002. The new law provides that national and regional
prosecutors investigate crimes and formulate charges, leaving
judges and magistrates the narrower function of judging the merits
of evidence presented before them. The Government has designated
two regions to begin gradual implementation of the reform. Training
and administrative setup is to begin in 1999, with the first oral
trials expected in 2000.
Based on the Napoleonic Code, the
criminal justice system does not provide for trial by jury, nor
does it assume innocence until proven otherwise. Criminal proceedings
are inquisitorial rather than adversarial. The Constitution provides
for the right to legal counsel, but the poor do not always get
effective legal representation (see Section 1.d.).
Four FPMR ringleaders broke out of Santiago's maximum-security prison in December 1996 in an elaborately orchestrated escape via helicopter. In September 1997, one of the escapees, Patricio Ortiz Montenegro, requested political asylum in Switzerland, claiming that he had not received justice in Chile. (In June 1995, a military court had convicted Ortiz of the 1991 murder of a police officer and sentenced him to a 10-year prison term.) Swiss authorities initially detained Ortiz at Chile's request but in September denied an extradition request and freed Ortiz from detention.
There were no reports of political
prisoners, although among the 56 inmates in Santiago's maximum-security
prison, those who have been convicted of terrorist acts routinely
claim to be political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy,
Family, Home, or Correspondence
The Constitution prohibits such practices,
government authorities generally respect these prohibitions, and
violations are subject to effective legal sanctions. A 1995 privacy
law bars obtaining information by undisclosed taping, telephone
intercepts, and other surreptitious means, as well as the dissemination
of such information, except by judicial order in narcotics-related
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties,
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom
of speech and of the press, and the authorities generally respect
these rights. The press maintains its independence, criticizes
the Government, and covers issues sensitive to the military, including
human rights. However, investigative journalism is still a rarity.
Two major media groups control the
print media, which are largely independent of the Government.
The State is majority owner of La Nacion newspaper, but it is
The electronic media also are largely
independent of government control. The Television Nacional network
is state-owned but not under direct government control. It receives
no government subsidy and is self-financing through commercial
advertising. It is editorially independent and is governed by
a board of directors that, although politically appointed, encourages
the expression of varied opinions over the network.
Under the Internal Security Law of
1958, it is a criminal offense to besmirch the honor of state
institutions and symbols, such as the Congress, the military services,
the flag, and the President. Military courts have the authority
to charge and try civilians for defamation of military personnel
and for sedition, but their rulings can be appealed to the Supreme
Court. Human Rights Watch criticized these restrictions on freedom
of expression and information.
In 1996 Congress passed a privacy law that set penalties for those who infringe on the private and public life of individuals and their families. At the time of the law's passage, journalists argued vigorously that applying it to media reporting would have a chilling effect on freedom of the press. To date, this privacy law has not been applied to the media. On November 4, the Supreme Court overturned a ruling by a lower court that had prevented Caras magazine from publishing a report on the suffering that an airplane accident caused to a family. Caras refrained from publishing the story, since it was no longer timely. There have been unsuccessful attempts to incorporate language and penalties similar to those in the privacy law into a draft press law.
On January 21, the authorities jailed two journalists in a libel case brought against them by Supreme Court justice Servando Jordan. They were released on bail the following morning. The case was brought under provisions of the Internal Security Law. On January 28, following public criticism of the lawsuits, Jordan withdrew his libel charge against the journalists. Jordan also filed libel charges against the director and deputy director of La Tercera daily newspaper. On January 30, a court rejected this case, and an appeals court reaffirmed the decision on June 17.
However, on September 16 another appeals court reinstated the case. The two journalists spent the night of September 16 in jail before being released on bail. At year's end, judicial proceedings were still open.
On June 4, La Epoca newspaper journalist
Jorge Molina received a written threat warning him to stop writing
about a 1994 bribery case involving military hospital procurement.
The journalist was provided with police protection.
In mid-July, retired General Pinochet
asserted that he was misquoted in La Tercera newspaper following
a breakfast meeting with four members of the press. He brought
a libel suit, which a court dismissed in November.
The 1980 Constitution established
a Film Classification Council (CCC) with the power of prior censorship.
The Council has banned over 50 films and approximately 700 videos.
Local and foreign film distributors regard the CCC's screening
process as insufficiently transparent. The Lawyers Association
for Public Liberties petitioned the IACHR to object to censorship
of the film "The Last Temptation of Christ." (The 1989
ban on the film had been lifted in 1996.) The Government continued
efforts to abolish the CCC through constitutional reform.
The National Television Council (CNT),
created by legislation in 1989 and supported with government funding,
is charged with assuring that television programming "respects
the moral and cultural values of the nation." The CNT's
principal role is to regulate violence and sexual explicitness
in both broadcast and cable television programming content. Films
and other programs judged by the CNT to be excessively violent
or to have obscene language or sexually explicit scenes can be
shown only after 10 p.m. when "family viewing hours"
end. In practice, the ever-increasing volume of programming makes
the CNT's job all but impossible. The CNT issues occasional warnings
to networks and cable providers and sometimes obliges them to
postpone the showing of certain films until after 10 p.m. It
also occasionally has levied fines. Debate continues over the
The courts can prohibit media coverage
of legal cases in progress but do so rarely. Courts issued two
gag orders involving criminal cases during the year, but both
were overturned on appeal. The press has begun using foreign
Internet web sites to publish articles when gag orders are issued.
The Government does not restrict
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly
The Constitution provides for these
rights, and the Government respects them in practice.
The police used water cannons and
tear gas to break up violent demonstrations on the anniversary
of the September 1973 coup. Two persons died, 77 were injured,
and over 300 were arrested. Property damage was considerable;
several buildings were vandalized along the parade route (also
see Sections 1.a. and 3).
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom
of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice.
All denominations practice their faiths without restriction.
Although church and state are officially separate, the Roman
Catholic Church receives official preferential treatment. Chile's
1 to 2 million Protestants assert that the Government discriminates
against them, based upon differing legal status afforded to non-Catholics.
They cite the absence of Protestant armed forces chaplains, difficulties
for pastors to visit military hospitals, and the predominantly
Catholic religious education in public schools. To remedy this
situation, the lower house of Congress unanimously approved a
bill to afford greater legal equality among all churches late
in 1997; however, the bill remained pending in the Senate at year's
end. There was one false bomb threat against a Santiago synagogue
in late August.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the
Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Constitution provides for these
rights, and the Government generally respects them in practice.
For minor children to leave the country, either alone or with
only one of their parents, they must have notarized permission
from both parents.
The Government cooperates with the
office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and
other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees. The law
include provisions for granting refugee and asylee status in accordance
with the provisions of the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the
Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The issue of the provision
of first asylum has not arisen. There were no reports of the
forced return of persons to a country where they feared persecution.
Section 3 Respect for Political
Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Chile is a constitutional democracy,
and citizens have the right to change their government through
periodic elections. There is universal suffrage for citizens
18 years of age and over. The Government still operates under
some political restraints that were imposed by the previous regime.
Under the 1980 Constitution, various national institutions--including
the President, the Supreme Court, and the National Security Council
(acting on nominations by the armed forces)--appoint an additional
nine Senators (beyond those elected) to 8-year terms. Nine newly
appointed institutional senators took their seats in March, along
with former President Pinochet, who became a Senator-for-life.
The Constitutional Tribunal rejected a suit seeking to prevent
Pinochet from entering the Senate. Following his assumption of
the seat, the Chamber of Deputies on April 9 rejected an attempt
to remove Pinochet from the Senate. The legislative branch, with
the exception of the institutional senators, is elected freely
and is independent from the executive branch.
The former military government wrote
the 1980 Constitution and amended it slightly in 1989 after losing
a referendum on whether General Pinochet should stay in office
as president. The Constitution provides for a strong presidency
and a legislative branch with limited powers. In addition, it
includes provisions designed to protect the interests of the military
and the rightwing political opposition. These provisions include
limitations on the President's right to remove military service
chiefs (including the chief of the army, a post which Pinochet
finally relinquished in March); an electoral system that gives
the second-place party (or coalition) in each district disproportionate
representation in Congress; and the provision for nonelected institutional
senators. The Government has pledged to amend these provisions,
which it views as "authoritarian enclaves" left over
from the previous regime; the opposition has pledged to fight
to retain what it views as important checks and balances in the
system of government.
As in previous years, demonstrations
on the anniversary of the 1973 coup resulted in harm to persons
and property. Two persons died, 77 were injured, and over 300
were arrested. However, in the future, the coup anniversary is
to be replaced by a "Day of National Unity," to be observed
on the first Monday in September (see Sections 1.a. and 2.a.).
Women have had the right to vote
in municipal elections since 1934 and in national elections since
1949 and are active in political life at the grassroots level.
Women make up a majority of registered voters and of those who
actually cast ballots, but few women are in leadership positions.
There are 13 women among the 120 deputies, 2 women in the 48-seat
Senate, and 3 women among the 19 cabinet ministers. No women
serve among the 21 Supreme Court justices. The level of female
participation in government is not increasing markedly.
The over 1 million indigenous people have the legal right to participate freely in the political process, although relatively few are active politically. Only one member of Congress is of indigenous descent.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude
Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged
Violations of Human Rights
There are several nongovernmental
human rights organizations. The Chilean Human Rights Commission,
a nongovernmental organization (NGO), is affiliated with the International
League of Human Rights and gathers evidence of police abuses.
The Social Aid Foundation of Christian Churches is also very
active on the full range of human rights issues. The CODEPU provides
legal counsel to those accused of politically related crimes and
to victims of human rights abuses. Local NGO's say that the
Government cooperates with their efforts to investigate current
accusations of human rights violations. Many international NGO's
also follow human rights issues closely.
In May President Frei advocated the
creation of a "national defender of citizens," a state
body that would receive complaints about abusive government acts.
However, implementing legislation had not been introduced in
the Congress by year's end.
Section 5 Discrimination Based
on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution provides for equality
before the law, but it does not ban specifically discrimination
based on race, sex, religion, or social status.
The public is only beginning to appreciate the extent of physical abuse of women. The National Women's Service (SERNAM), created in 1991 to combat discrimination against women, found in a 1996 study of more than 12,000 reports of domestic violence that 3 years after the Law on Intrafamily Violence went into effect, only 1 in 5 accusations resulted in judicial action. The study indicated that spouses or domestic partners were responsible for 88 percent of family violence, and that 63 percent of the reports involved physical attacks. The study showed that in nearly three-quarters of reported cases of domestic violence, the accusation led to a positive change in the domestic situation regardless of the judicial outcome. SERNAM also conducted courses on the legal, medical, and psychological aspects of domestic violence for police officers and judicial and municipal authorities.
The courts may order counseling for
those involved in intrafamily violence. In 1997 there were approximately
61,000 reports of domestic violence. In 1994 (latest data available)
there were 2,280 reported cases of rape; 75 to 80 percent of rapes
are believed to go unreported. Under a 100-year-old law, if a
man charged with rape asks the rape victim to marry him and she
accepts, he would be released immediately, but the fact of his
arrest for rape would remain on his criminal record. SERNAM is
working to have this law abolished.
Legal distinctions between the sexes
still exist. The law permits legal separation but not divorce,
so those who wish to remarry must seek annulments. Since annulment
implies that a marriage never existed under the law, former spouses
are left with little recourse for financial support. Although
a recent law created conjugal property as an option in a marriage,
some women saw this as a step backward, since the law on separate
property (which still exists) gives women the right to one-half
their husbands' assets but gives husbands no rights to assets
of a wife. In the face of heavy opposition from the Catholic
Church, the Chamber of Deputies approved a divorce bill in September
1997; the bill still is awaiting Senate action.
Another SERNAM study in 1997 found
that the average earnings of female heads of household are only
71 percent of those of male heads of household. Women with no
schooling averaged a salary that was 87 percent of their male
counterparts without schooling, while female heads of household
with university training averaged only 57 percent as much as their
male counterparts. SERNAM has a pilot program that provides occupational
training and child care in an effort to alleviate this disparity.
Employers no longer have the right
to ask women to take pregnancy tests prior to hiring them; legislation
prohibiting this practice took effect in November.
The Government provides free education
through high school; education is compulsory from first through
A 1996 survey by the National Minors
Service indicated that sexual abuse of minors occurs but that
few cases are reported. A 1996 United Nations Children's Fund
(UNICEF) report stated that 34 percent of children under 12 years
of age experience serious physical violence, although only 3.2
percent of the victims of intrafamily violence reported to the
National police family affairs unit were below the age of 18.
A 1994 law on intrafamily violence was designed in part to deal
with this problem. According to UNICEF, some form of corporal
punishment is used by one or both parents in 62 percent of households.
A Catholic Church study released in August 1998 estimated that
12 percent of children are beaten by their mother and 10 percent
by their father. UNICEF estimates that approximately 107,000
children between the ages of 12 and 19 are in the work force.
The Catholic Church's study estimated that some 50,000 children
under age 15 are working (see Section 6.d.).
Investigations of child abuse within
Colonia Dignidad, a secretive German-speaking settlement 240 miles
south of Santiago, received widespread publicity throughout the
year. The 34,000-acre enclave, inhabited by 350 colonists, was
founded by 77-year-old Paul Schaefer, who immigrated from Germany
in 1961 with 300 followers. Armed with a court order seeking
Schaefer's arrest on multiple counts of child molestation and
tax evasion, police conducted extensive search operations on the
grounds of Colonia Dignidad, but were unable to apprehend Schaefer,
who remained at large throughout the year. In March the police
detained several members of the community during a raid.
By law, juvenile offenders (i.e.,
those under the age of 18) are segregated from adult prisoners.
The Government had reduced the number of minors in adult prisons
from 6,630 in 1992 to around 346 by the end of 1997.
Congress approved a law in September, which is to take effect in late 1999, that gives illegitimate children the same legal rights (e.g., of inheritance) as those enjoyed by children born to a married couple.
People With Disabilities
Congress passed a law in 1994 to
promote the integration of the disabled into society, and the
Government's National Fund for the Handicapped has a $1.5 million
budget. The 1992 census found that 288,000 citizens said that
they had some form of disability. The disabled still suffer some
forms of legal discrimination; for example, blind persons cannot
become teachers or tutors. Although the law requires that new
public buildings provide access for the disabled, the public transportation
system does not make provision for wheelchair access, and a new
subway line in the Santiago metropolitan area provides no facilitated
access for the disabled.
According to the 1992 census, nearly
1 million persons, slightly less than 7 percent of the population,
consider themselves as indigenous. The Mapuches from the south
constitute over 90 percent of the indigenous population, but there
are small Aimara, Atacameno, Huilliche, Rapa Nui, and Kawaskhar
populations in other parts of the country. A committee composed
of representatives of indigenous groups participated in drafting
the 1993 law that recognizes the ethnic diversity of the indigenous
population and gives indigenous people a voice in decisions affecting
their lands, cultures, and traditions. It provides for eventual
bilingual education in schools with indigenous populations, replacing
a statute that emphasized assimilation of indigenous people.
However, out of the population that identifies itself as indigenous,
about one-half remain separated from the rest of society, largely
because of historical, cultural, educational, and geographical
factors. In practice, the ability of indigenous people to participate
in governmental decisions affecting their lands, cultures, traditions,
and the allocation of natural resources is marginal. Indigenous
people also experience some societal discrimination.
The National Corporation for Indigenous
Development (CONADI) was created in 1994, and indigenous people
directly elected representatives to this body in 1995. It advises
and directs government programs that assist the economic development
of indigenous people.
In August eight Mapuche families
rejected an offer from the Endesa power company to exchange their
traditional lands for other property as part of a hydroelectric
project. Some of the other indigenous families that had signed
land-transfer forms claimed that they had done so under pressure.
The Indigenous Law allows for the exchange of traditional lands
for property of equal or greater value, provided that the owners
and CONADI approve. The Government argued that the electric services
law that permits expropriation of property in the interest of
providing energy for the general good took precedence over the
Indigenous Law. The Government dismissed the CONADI director
and two board members when they disagreed with this position.
The parties continued in negotiation at year's end.
Chile assimilated a major European
migration in the last century and a major Middle Eastern and Croatian
migration in the early part of this century. Smaller racial and
ethnic minority groups (Chileans of Asian descent and African-Chileans)
experience some societal intolerance.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
Workers have the right to form unions
without prior authorization and to join existing unions. The
work force is estimated at 5.7 million persons, of whom 3.7 million
are salaried. The latest available statistics place union membership
at approximately 655,000, or roughly 12 percent of the entire
work force. A 1995 law provides government-employee associations
with the same rights as trade unions. However, this right is
not enjoyed by police or military personnel, nor by employees
of state-owned companies attached to the Ministry of Defense.
Members of unions are free to withdraw from union membership.
The 1992 Labor Code permits nationwide
labor centrals, and the Unified Workers Central (CUT), the largest
and most representative of these, legalized its status in April
1992. Labor unions are effectively independent of the Government,
but union leaders usually are elected from lists based on party
affiliation and often receive direction from parties' headquarters.
There are no restrictions on the political activities or affiliations
of unions or union officials. Registering a union is a simple
Employees in the private sector have
the right to strike, and the Government regulates this right.
However, some restrictions on the right to strike remain. The
law proscribes employees of some 30 companies--largely providers
of essential services (e.g., water and electricity)--from striking;
it stipulates compulsory arbitration to resolve potential strikes
in these companies. Public officials do not enjoy this right,
although government teachers, municipal, and health workers have
struck in the past. Public school teachers struck for almost
a month in October. There is no provision for compulsory arbitration
in the public sector.
Employers must pay severance benefits
to striking workers and must show cause to fire workers. Employees
who believe that they have been dismissed unfairly or dismissed
because of their trade union activities file complaints with the
Ministry of Labor. If the claim is approved, the employer must
make special and additional compensatory payments. The burden
of proof rests with the employer in cases in which employees allege
illegal antiunion activity.
The CUT and many other labor confederations
and federations maintain ties to international labor organizations.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain
Despite legal provisions for collective
bargaining, most workers negotiate individual contracts. Employers
say that this is due to the workers' preference, distrust of union
leaders, and loyalty to companies. Union leaders counter that
the Labor Code--which does not allow union shops--prevents successful
organization in many sectors. Employers also may include a clause
in individual employment contracts that bars some classes of supervisory
employees from collective bargaining. Employees may object to
the inclusion of such clauses in their contracts and may appeal
to the Ministry of Labor to excise them.
The Ministry of Labor arbitrates
about one-half of the complaints it receives. Workers may take
unarbitrated cases to the courts. If complainants succeed in
proving that they were fired unjustly, the employer must pay discharged
employees twice their normal severance payment. There are no
statistics available concerning the disposition of complaints
of antiunion behavior. Allegations exist that employers fire
workers for union activity and attempt to avoid a complaint by
immediately paying them some multiple of the normal severance
Temporary workers--defined in the
Labor Code as those in agriculture and construction, as well as
port workers and entertainers--may form unions, but their right
to collective bargaining remains dependent on employers agreeing
to negotiate with unions of temporary workers. Likewise, inter-company
unions enjoy the right of collective bargaining only if the employer
agrees to negotiate with such a union. Labor Code sanctions against
unfair bargaining practices protect workers from dismissal only
during the bargaining process. Labor leaders complain that companies
invoke the law's needs-of-the-company clause to fire workers after
a union has signed a new contract, particularly when negotiations
result in a prolonged strike.
Labor laws apply in the duty-free
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory
The Constitution and the Labor Code
prohibit forced or compulsory labor, and it is not known to occur.
While the Labor Code does not specifically prohibit forced and
bonded labor by children, there were no reports of such practices.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices
and Minimum Age for Employment
The law allows children between the
ages of 15 and 18 to work with the express permission of their
parents or guardians. Children 14 years of age also may work
legally with such permission, but they must have completed their
elementary education, and the work involved may not be physically
strenuous or unhealthy. Additional provisions in the law protect
workers under 18 years of age by restricting the types of work
open to them (for example, they may not work in nightclubs) and
by establishing special conditions of work (they may not work
more than 8 hours in 1 day). Labor inspectors enforce these regulations,
and compliance is good in the formal economy.
The Labor Code does not specifically
prohibit forced and bonded labor by children, but such practices
were not known to occur (see Section 6.c.). Many children are
employed in the informal economy. A government study estimates
that 15,000 children between the ages of 6 and 11 and 32,000 children
between the ages of 12 and 14 are in the work force. UNICEF estimates
that approximately 107,000 children between the ages of 12 and
19 work (see Section 5). An August Catholic Church study estimated
50,000 children under the age of 15 worked. The majority of these
were males from single-parent households headed by women; among
these were children who worked more than 40 hours per week and
did not attend school. The Ministry of Labor convenes regular
meetings of a tripartite group (business-labor-government) to
monitor progress in eradicating child labor.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The law sets minimum wages, and the
minimum wage is adjusted annually. This wage is designed to serve
as the starting wage for an unskilled single worker entering the
labor force and does not provide a worker and family with a decent
standard of living. Only 11 percent of salaried workers earn
the minimum wage. A tripartite committee comprising government,
employer, and labor representatives normally suggests a minimum
wage based on projected inflation and increases in productivity.
In May Congress approved the Government's proposal setting the
minimum monthly wage at approximately $170 (80,500 pesos) as of
The law sets hours of work and occupational
safety and health standards. The legal workweek is 48 hours,
which can be worked in either 5 or 6 days. The maximum workday
length is 10 hours, but positions such as caretakers and domestic
servants are exempted. All workers enjoy at least one 24-hour
rest period during the workweek, except for workers at high altitudes
who voluntarily exchange a work-free day each week for several
consecutive work-free days every 2 weeks.
In late October, Congress approved
new legislation (which became effective November 9) modifying
the Labor Code to provide domestic employees the same pregnancy
benefits as female employees who work outside private homes.
The same legislation prohibits employers from requiring prospective
female workers to take pregnancy tests (see Section 5).
Occupational health and safety are
protected under the law and administered by both the Ministries
of Health and of Labor. The Government has increased resources
for inspections by over 60 percent since 1990 and targeted industries
guilty of the worst abuses. As a result, enforcement is improving,
and voluntary compliance is fairly good. A law that became effective
in 1996 increased the number of annual occupational health and
safety inspections and provided that they be carried out by an
expanded labor inspection service in the Ministry of Labor. Insurance
mutual funds provide workers' compensation and occupational safety
training for the private and public sectors. There was a 24-percent
decline in reported occupational injuries in 1997 compared with
the previous 5 years, although 11 percent of the work force still
submitted claims. Workers who remove themselves from situations
that endanger their health and safety have their employment protected
if a real danger to their health or safety exists.
[end of document]
to 1998 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.