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Chile: Looming Anti-protest Law Sparks Concern

Chile's Minister of Interior, Rodrigo Hinzpeter has called on the Congress to approve a law that seeks harsher punishments for protesters, renewing a debate that started in the country a year ago.

The law was initially drafted after students marched through downtown Santiago on June 28, 2011, in a protest that ended with violent clashes between the Carabineros (Chile's national police) and the students.

Recently, another student march demanding free education took place. After the protest, Rodrigo Hinzpeter called on the Chilean Congress to review and approve the law that was sent by the President's Office in October 2011.

"Hang on guys! We are with you. Hope is not surrendered! No more profits" Photo by Flickr user Periodico El Ciudadano (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

“Hang on guys! We are with you. Hope is not surrendered! No more profits” Photo by Flickr user Periodico El Ciudadano (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

As previously reported by Global Voices, the law was first known as “the anti-occupation law” because of a section in it which sought to prevent the occupation of public or privately owned buildings. Since then, the law has been waiting to be voted on in Congress.

In his statement, Hinzpeter said [es]: “The best was to vote in favor of the law, so as to create laws that are truly capable of punishing people that take advantage of their legitimate right to free speech and expression to commit vandalism without any justification”.

Chilean Twitter users have been divided over the issue.

For instance, Twitter user @La_Anemia [es], agrees with the Undersecretary of Interior, Rodrigo Ubilla, who pressed Congress to vote on the law:

Subsecretario Ubilla tiene toda la razón… ya es hora de que el Congreso se pronuncie sobre Ley Hinzpeter

Undersecretary Ubilla is absolutely right…it's time Congress says something about the Hinzpeter Law

Andrea Montecinos (@LaGranMantis) [es] expressed her support for the law, as did Javiera Cordas (JavieraCordas) [es]:

Pueden marchar 120.000 estudiantes de manera pacífica, pero basta el 1% para destrozar todo el Centro. Sorry, pero necesitamos Ley Hinzpeter

120,000 students can march peacefully, but its enough with 1% of them to destroy downtown. Sorry, but we need the Hinzpeter Law.

Others, like María Carolina Inostroza (@MaCarolinaIV) [es], are more neutral and believe the law is just the government's reaction to the violent protesters that clash with police:

Ahora el gob esta solicitando q se apruebe la ley hinzpeter. Represión por culpa del lumpen q ensucia las marchas.

Now the government is requesting that the Hinzpeter Law gets approved; repression because of thugs who spoil the marches.

Since the protests for free education which began over a year ago, student leaders have repeatedly stated that police often infiltrate the marches with masked undercover officers that, in some cases, incite violence . This issue came up again in reactions to the Hinzpeter Law, as a tweet by Marchar x Dignidad (@morochapatetica) [es] shows:

Ahora queda claro q “encapuchados” d ayer fueron infiltrados.Justo sirven para q Ubilla diga nunca más xAlameda y aceleremos ley Hinzpeter

Now it’s clear that yesterday’s masked protesters were infiltrators. They are useful to Ubilla so he can say no more (marches) through Alameda (biggest avenue in Santiago) and let’s swiftly approve Hinzpeter Law

A wide number of people disagree with the law as well. On Twitter, they used the hashtag #NoaLaLeyHinzpeter (“No to the Hinzpeter Law). One such person was Ivonne Montero (@ivichikiturry) [es] who said:

#NoaLaLeyHinzpeter criminaliza antes de cometer el crimen…..

#NoaLaLeyHinzpeter It criminalizes before the crime is committed…..

A conversation that shows the sort of discourse and division over the law is one involving Urusla Eggers, a former VJ at MTV Chile, who tweeted (@ursula_eggers):

@ursula_eggers: ‪#NoALaLeyHinzpeter‬ Atenta contra todo derecho a libre expresión. Se criminaliza antes de cometer crimen. Peor que en Dictadura. ‪#ENacional‬

@ursula_eggers: ‪#NoToHinzpeterLaw‬ It harms right to freedom of expression. Criminalizes before crime is committed. Worst than during the dictatorship. ‪#ENacional‬

@eugeforestal: @ursula_eggers@Izquierda_Tuit y mis derechos de seguridad donde quedan? Quien responde por los robos? Ley Hinzpeter ahora!!!

@eugeforestal: @ursula_eggers @Izquierda_Tuit and what about my right to security? Who will answer for the robberies? Hinzpeter law now!!!

@ursula_eggers: @eugeforestal@izquierda_tuit La ley no garantiza seguridad. Garantiza castigos excesivos. Prevención de delincuencia pasa cambios de fondo.

@ursula_eggers: @eugeforestal @izquierda_tuit The law does not guarantee security. It guarantees excessive punishments. Preventing crime requires deeper reforms.

Widely shared material included a Prezi presentation [es] by law student Sebastian Aylwin [es] that explained more details about what the law entails. According to Aylwin, the law calls for 541 days to 3 years of jail time for individuals who are found guilty of, among other things, occupying public and private buildings or disrupting traffic or basic services.

Another link that was widely circulated was this video uploaded onto youtube by Rodrigo Fernandez on June 18, 2012, which initially makes fun of President Piñera and Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter, but then later discusses the different aspects of the law that would criminalize public protests.

Ironically, as reported by The Clinic [es], a march to protest the law is scheduled for July 6, 2012.

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