Americas

HRW urge police reform in Chile after shooting

Police killing of street juggler Francisco Martínez Romero set off protests across country

Gabriel Toueg   | 08.02.2021
HRW urge police reform in Chile after shooting File Photo

SAO PAULO, Brazil

Police cannot kill someone for resisting an ID check, Human Rights Watch said Sunday, in the wake of the killing of a young performer by Chilean police.

“A thorough and rapid investigation into these serious events is urgently needed,” said the group’s Americas director, Jose Miguel Vivanco. “Chile must urgently move forward with a serious and rigorous reform of the Carabineros.”

He demanded “a serious investigation” to “clarify whether the use of force was necessary and proportionate in this case.”

A video clip widely circulated on social media shows an officer shooting at Francisco Martínez Romero’s feet. The 27-year-old is seen carrying and sometimes waving machetes used in his performances in Panguipulli.

After a moment, he leaps out and rushes toward the officer. Several shots are fired and he collapses in the street.

The officer was held in custody for investigations Saturday and will be held until Monday after the Panguipulli Guarantee Court extended his arrest at the request of the Public Ministry.

The shooting Friday set off protests about alleged police violence in southern Chile, with several buildings set ablaze. Demonstrations also occurred in the capital, Santiago, where 10 people were arrested. In Maipu, there was an attack on a police station and a bus was set on fire.

Vivanco's remarks joined condemnations in Chile about the shooting.

Presidential candidates also condemned the killing and called for police reform.

“Yesterday a person lost his life, which shakes us,” said former Finance Minister and presidential candidate for the Evopolis party Ignacio Briones. “Hours later, public buildings that provide fundamental services to Chileans were destroyed. I cannot think of an action more contrary to justice, nor more alien to the change that Chile needs,” he said Saturday.

PPD candidate Heraldo Munoz went beyond reform. Chile “needs a new police force that meets the minimum international standards of a democratic police force,” he said.

Paula Narvaez, candidate for the PS, said on Twitter that after a “new loss of a human life in the hands of a State agent,” police reform “does not admit delays.”

“The Government must intervene now, fulfill its duty and leave the passivity to take decisive action in a restructuring of the Carabineros,” she added.

Jose Araya, coordinator of the Citizen Observatory in Los Rios, showed concern about the shooting and advocated for “changing standards, protocols, account transparency, and the issue of police training.”

A wake was held Saturday for Martínez on the streets of Panguipulli.

The Los Ríos police confirmed Sunday that his family delivered to authorities machetes used in his performances to assist in the investigation.

There are three 50-centimeter (20-inch) long instruments.

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