Chile on Thursday signed new laws and allocated US$1.5 billion to fight crime amid skyrocketing perceptions of insecurity and a day after the third police officer in less than a month was killed on duty.
“When it comes to fighting crime and backing Carabineros (police force), there are now fissures in the Chilean state,” President Gabriel Boric said from La Moneda presidential palace.
“We face organized crime together. Our unity is the most powerful weapon against crime.”
Boric announced US$1.5 billion in added security spending and signed off on four new laws that the government says will help fight organized crime, drug trafficking and crime. The measures include criminalizing extortion as well as increased penalties for kidnapping and some instances of firearm possession.
One law increases penalties for crimes against police while giving them more freedom to use force if their lives or the lives of others are at risk.
The law has been criticized by human rights groups, including Amnesty International, which issued a press release stating the law could “increase police abuse and impunity” and is a “enormous step back” in terms of advancing police reforms.
Chile’s police force has faced human rights abuse accusations following a heavy-handed crackdown of the violent 2019 protests against inequality.
Boric, a former student protest leader, was a vocal police critic as a legislator and promised to reform the police as a candidate. Polls show voters largely disapprove of the government’s handling of crime and Boric has since hardened his stance.
At an earlier press conference, hours after police officer Daniel Palma, 33, was killed on duty in downtown Santiago Wednesday night, Interior Minister Carolina Toha said the government was implementing an intervention plan in 30 districts earlier than scheduled.
Palma is the third police officer to be killed on duty in less than a month, sparking public backlash.