U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Chile

    Chile is a multiparty democracy based upon a Constitution which provides for a strong executive, a bicameral legislature, and an independent judiciary. Approved by referendum in 1980, the Constitution was written under the former military government and contains limits on popular rule. Chile's second consecutive democratically elected president, Eduardo Frei, began a 6-year term on March 11. A new Congress comprising 120 Deputies and 46 Senators was sworn in the same day. Appointees of former dictator General Pinochet continued to dominate 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 multi-institutional National Security Council to remove service chiefs. President Frei asked Gen. Stange, Commander of Carabineros (the uniformed police), to resign in April following a judicial charge of covering up evidence in a 1985 murder case, but he refused, the charges were dropped, and he remains in place. The Carabineros have primary responsibility for public order and safety, and border security. The civilian Investigations Police is responsible for criminal investigations. Both organizations, although formally under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense--which determines their budget--are under operational control of the Minister of Interior. Elements of both forces continued to be accused of human rights abuses, including police brutality. Some notorious alleged perpetratorsof human rights abuses during the previous regime remain on active duty in the army. The export-oriented economy experienced its eleventh consecutive year of expansion in 1994. The most important export was copper, with fresh fruit, fish meal, and manufactured goods also important sources of foreign exchange. Gross domestic product grew more than 4 percent, unemployment increased to about 6 percent, and inflation fell for the fourth consecutive year, to 8.9 percent. Five years after the transition to democracy, the principal human rights issues in Chile relate to abuses that occurred during the former military government. Efforts to do justice in those cases are limited by sometimes conflicting requirements for justice and national reconciliation. In particular, the courts continue to struggle with the application of the 1978 amnesty to cases that occurred during the first 5 years of military rule. However, in March a civilian court convicted 15 Carabineros of the 1985 murder of 3 Communist leaders and sentenced 6 to life terms. The judicial system continued to investigate, with mixed success, a number of other pending human rights cases, but human rights monitors criticized the preferential treatment given some human rights abusers. Continuing human rights abuses include instances of police brutality and torture, prior restraint of the press, social discrimination against ethnic minorities and indigenous people, and individual acts of violence against women and chidren.


Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political killings. No terrorists died in confrontations with police in 1994, but the Defense Committee of the Peoples' Rights (CODEPU) claimed that two criminals died in shootouts because the police used excessive force. The circumstances remain unclear. The police arrested several leaders of Chile's two main terrorist groups, the Dissident Wing of the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front (FPMR/D) and the Lautaro Youth Movement, responsible for most of the political violence since the return of democratic government in 1990. The arrests included Guillermo Ossandon, the most wanted terrorist, and founder and leader of the Lautaro Youth, who was arraigned for 600 crimes, including 25 homicides, the Lautaro committed under his leadership. The courts succeeded in bringing to justice some government agents who used political violence in the past. Special investigating Judge Milton Juica convicted 15 former police agents from the former Carabinero Intelligence Unit, Dicomcar, and their civilian informant for kidnaping and murder in the 1985 death of 3 Communist Party members. He sentenced them to prison terms, including some life sentences. The Court of Appeals confirmed life sentences for six agents, one of them the former head of operations of Dicomcar. The case remains under appeal. A military court investigated Carabinero Commanding General Stange and five retired Carabinero generals for obstruction of justice in covering up the crime, but determined they had committed no illegal acts, a ruling that was confirmed by the Supreme Court. The Fourth Chamber of the Supreme Court ruled in November that another former Carabinero captain in Dicomcar should serve his 3-year sentence for the 1985 death of socialist Carlos Godoy Echegoyen in the penitentiary, reversing a ruling by the military court of appeals that granted him probation. The Supreme Court also ruled that army Captain Pedro Fernandez Dittus should serve 600 days in prison for his responsibility in the burning death of Rodrigo Rojas Denegri and the serious burns sustained by Carmen Gloria Quintana in July 1986. The case was the first in which a military court had ruled in favor of human rights victims, but the military court of appeals in 1991 reduced Fernandez's sentence to 300 days and allowed his release on probation. The Supreme Court did not determine who was responsible for the injuries, but ruled that the captain had been negligent for not attending to the victims. The Supreme Court is still reviewing Justice Adolfo Banados' sentencing of Gen. Manuel Contreras and Colonel Pedro Espinoza to 7- and 6-year prison terms, respectively, as the intellectual authors of the 1976 murder in Washington, D. C. of former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier and his American assistant, Ronni Moffitt. The two defendants remained free on bail in the only case involving DINA--the Pinochet-era secret police--that was specifically excluded from the 1978 amnesty law covering most political crimes before that date. The courts have not issued findings in the investigations requested by the Minister of Interior into the 1993 deaths of two prisoners in police custody. Police commanders who conducted their own internal investigations were rumored to have punished those involved, but this has not been announced publicly. The Supreme Court ruled that a civilian judge should continue to investigate the two deaths that occurred during demonstrations sponsored by leftist and human rights groups on September 11, 1993, the twentieth anniversary of the 1973 coup. The Supreme Court maintained jurisdiction over the investigation into the 1976 murder of Carmelo Soria, a Spanish citizen employed by the United Nations. A military court applied the amnesty to the case in December 1993, but in April the First Chamber of the Supreme Court ordered that the case be reopened to investigate several issues before a decision could be made on applying the amnesty. Supreme Court Justice Eleodoro Ortiz changed procedures and began interviewing military witnesses on military bases, rather than in court, so the press could not subject them to scrutiny. The Third Court of Appeals reopened the investigation into possible involvement of several active duty and retired military officers in the 1974 murder of Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR) activist Lumi Videla, and the Eighth Court of Appeals overruled a military court's application of the amnesty to the 1974 disappearances of MIR members Barbara Uribe and Edwin Van Jurick, on the grounds that the amnesty could not apply because the cases involved a violation of the Geneva Convention. Constitutional specialist Humberto Nogueira wrote both opinions. The cases are being appealed to the Supreme Court but the ruling, if upheld, would set an important precedent for other human rights cases. In other cases, military courts continued their long standing practice of applying the 1978 amnesty law to crimes involving members of the armed forces, without conducting an investigation to identify the perpetrators. In December the Supreme Court upheld a military court's decision to apply the amnesty to the disappearances of 78 persons who had been detained by DINA. Human rights lawyers had initiated the case before the amnesty was enacted in 1978, and only one of the victims' bodies was located. Under the military government, the military courts had closed such investigations without applying the amnesty, but after the 1988 plebiscite paved the way for a return to democracy (see Section 3), the military courts began to apply the amnesty. About 100 cases have now been closed through the amnesty, 300 cases are active, and an additional 800 cases remain temporarily closed. In a case where the amnesty does not apply, the authorities extradited retired Army Major Carlos Herrera from Argentina for the 1982 murder of Tucapel Jimenez, but the Supreme Court transferred him from the custody of prison wardens to confinement on a military base. Human rights advocates claimed that former DINA agents are among his guards, making it difficult for Herrera to cooperate with the courts. Retired Army Major Alvaro Corbalan, the commander of an intelligence unit accused of committing a related murder, remains under detention on a military base, but there were newspaper reports that he held several political meetings while confined.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. A number of pre-1978 disappearance cases are still in the courts. The Aylwin Government argued that under the amnesty law, these kidnaping cases cannot be closed and the alleged perpetrator amnestied unless a court determines that the victim died while the amnesty was in effect. That argument requires that the courts locate the remains of the deceased or determine the circumstances of their death before applying the amnesty. However, military courts ignore this view and apply the amnesty to pre-1978 cases of "illegal arrest" when they presume the victim is dead. For example, on September 5, the Santiago military court applied the amnesty to the 1974 kidnaping of the Andronico brothers without serving an arrest warrant on Army Lt. Colonel Fernando Laureani (see Section 1.e.). In November the First Chamber of the Supreme Court allowed civilian courts to continue to investigate three disappearance cases. Human rights lawyer Nelson Caucoto said the Supreme Court had denied military jurisdiction only twice before in such appeals. Caucoto was one of the lawyers representing the families of the 78 people who disappeared after detention by DINA (see Section 1.a.). When the Supreme Court upheld the military court's application of the amnesty in that case, he announced his intention to appeal the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the grounds that all legal means had been exhausted to bring the guilty parties to justice under the Chilean judicial system.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution forbids "the use of illegal pressure" on detainees but the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture found instances of mistreatment and abuse by some Carabinero and Investigations police units. CODEPU lawyers visit detainees during their interrogation (see Section 1.d.) and represent many suspected terrorists in court. During a 1-year period that ended October 1, CODEPU alleged there were 16 cases of torture by Carabineros, 6 by Investigations police, and 2 by prison guards which it brought to the attention of the U.N. Special Rapporteur. Lawyers on a commission studying judicial reform believe the inquisitorial approach used in Chile encourages the use of torture. Since the judge uses written records, a confession appears to be important evidence, even if it was obtained under duress. In October the Santiago Court of appeals threw out the convictions of 11 members of the FPMR because the investigating judge relied on confessions that police had obtained with torture. Human rights lwyers hailed the ruling. CODEPU also reports that its complaints of police abuses for a 1-year period ending October 1 resulted in 30 administrative reviews by Carabineros and 11 by Investigations Police. The Investigations Police created an ethics squad to investigate reports of police abuse, including allegations of torture. The Minister of Interior normally asks the courts to conduct independent investigations of credible complaints of police abuse, but such investigations rarely resulted in arrests, due in part to the reluctance of members of the judiciary, many of them appointed by the military regime, to pursue the issue vigorously. However, as indicated in the CODEPU report, police authorities often impose administrative sanctions without waiting for a judicial ruling. Under intense pressure from Brazil in late 1993, the Supreme Court appointed Judge Alejandro Solis to investigate allegations by a Brazilian psychologist, Tania Maria Cordeiro, that Investigations Police tortured and raped her in March 1993 when they arrested her boarder for possession of arms used by Lautaro terrorists in bank robberies. Judge Solis ordered the arrest of eight policemen including Zvonco Farias, the head of an Investigations Police station, for procedural irregularities in the case and for detaining Cordeiro's 13-year-old daughter as psychological pressure to obtain a confession, but he did not find proof of torture. The policemen appealed the charges and are free on bail. Chilean prisons are 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 can often rent space in a better wing of the prison. Although prison guards have been accused of using excessive force to stop attempted prison breaks, the guards generally behave responsibly and do not mistreat prisoners. A new maximum security prison houses about 80 prisoners, most of them charged with or convicted of terrorism. Some of the prisoners claimed that security measures that prevent them from meeting as a group violated their rights. They refused to leave their cells to appear in court and went on a hunger strike demanding the conditions be relaxed. The courts have repeatedly investigated the complaints, and the Human Rights Committee of Congress, journalists, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited the prison. The Chilean Human Rights Commission and the congressional committee criticized wardens for not giving these prisoners the opportunity to perform prison labor or engage in group exercise. The ICRC closed its Santiago office in 1993, saying that there was no longer a need for prison visits, but it sent delegates from Brazil for the visit.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution allows civilian and military courts to order detention for up to 5 days without arraignment and extend the detention for up to 10 days for suspected terrorist acts. The law affords detainees 30 minutes of immediate and 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 observed these requirements. It is quite common for the police to make arrests based on suspicion, particularly of youth in high crime areas late at night. The Chilean Human Rights Commission reported as many as a thousand arrests some weeks and said that 80 percent of those detained are released without charges after a few hours or a few days. Arrest procedures do not require police to allow detainees to telephone their parents or lawyer which causes particular anguish for distraught parents. However, statistics show that the number of such arrests is declining. There were no cases of forced exile in 1994. Six Chileans convicted of politically motivated crimes during the military regime opted to go abroad as a condition for their release from jail.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution calls for a judicial system independent of the other branches of government. However, the judiciary, and particularly the Supreme Court, is dominated by appointees named under the former military regime. Judges are appointed for life, and appointments to the appeals and supreme courts are made by the President from lists prepared by the Supreme Court. Gen. Pinochet appointed 10 of the 17 sitting Supreme Court judges, 7 of them after he lost the 1988 plebiscite. The judicial system is widely criticized for being out of date and inefficient, but the Supreme Court in the past year began working with the Government on broad judicial reform. Supreme Court justices sit on a blue ribbon reform committee, and in November, a judicial academy was established to give further training to sitting judges. The judicial system is based on the inquisitorial system. The judiciary relies on the written record rather than oral testimony, and in most cases the judge renders a verdict after directing the investigation. The investigative phase is considered secret, with limited access for the accused or his attorney to evidence or testimony accumulated by the judge. There is a well-developed (but very slow), multistage appeal process leading ultimately to the Supreme Court; it is not uncommon for cases to linger for several years. Under the military government a broad interpretation of state security laws expanded the jurisdiction of military courts over proscribed political activities and crimes committed with firearms. A 1991 legal reform package, the "Cumplido" laws, limited the jurisdiction of military tribunals to cases involving military officers and transferred most terrorist and human rights cases to the civilian courts. This reopened many human rights cases previously closed by the military courts. However, when formal charges are filed against a military officer, including Carabineros, the military prosecutor asks, and the Supreme Court normally grants, jurisdiction to the military (see Section 1.a.). The Auditor General of the Army sits as a visiting justice in Supreme Court chambers that hear appeals of rulings from the military courts. The military courts often preempt full investigation of human rights cases by seeking jurisdiction and then dismissing the cases. For example, the Supreme Court gave a civilian judge jurisdiction over the 1974 disappearance of the Andronico brothers, both members of the MIR. She investigated the case for more than 2 years and found enough proof to issue an arrest warrant for active-duty Army Lt. Col. Fernando Laureani, a former DINA squad leader. After the arrest warrant was issued, the Supreme Court granted a military court jurisdiction and the military judge closed the case in less than 24 hours, citing lack of evidence. Although a military court of appeals ordered the case reopened in May and left standing the original arrest warrant, in September the military court applied the amnesty without ever calling Lt. Col. Laureani to testify. Human rights lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court and asked that the military judge be reprimanded. The Supreme Court had not ruled on the request by year's end. When President Aylwin took office in 1990, the Social Aid Foundation of the Christian Churches (FASIC) reported 350 prisoners in jail charged with violating state security laws for politically motivated crimes committed during the military regime. They have all been released. President Aylwin granted presidential pardons to 151 prisoners, 32 of whom agreed to remain outside Chile for the remainder of their sentences. FASIC now counts one detainee as a political prisoner because he was arrested after 1990 for a crime committed during the military regime. CODEPU says there are seven.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Constitution prohibits searches of the home and interception of private communications, unless either a civilian or military court issues a search warrant for specific locations. The 1984 antiterrorist law allows court supervised surveillance of those suspected of terrorist crimes, and for the interception, opening, or recording of private communications and documents in such cases. Privacy laws do not permit the release of telephone records nor the use of caller identification services. Since the return to civilian rule, there have been a number of incidents involving supposed espionage. In a 1992 political eavesdropping scandal, it was clear that an army unit was recording cellular telephone conversations of political leaders of all persuasions, including members of Congress. While it is against stated government policy to engage in this kind of political espionage, it is not clear whether or not it continues.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, and the authorities generally respected these rights in practice. The press maintains its independence, criticizes the government, and covers issues sensitive to the military, including human rights issues. Military courts still assert their authority to charge and try civilians for defamation of military personnel and sedition, but their rulings can be appealed to the Supreme Court. In April a military prosecutor charged Hector Salazar, the lawyer for victims' families in the 1985 murder of three Communist Party members, with sedition. In an interview after the sentencing of the Carabineros, Salazar had questioned whether Carabineros would obey Gen. Stange's orders when others under his command had just received life sentences. A military court ordered Salazar's arrest and jailed him overnight before he could make bail. On appeal, the two civilian members of the military court of appeals voted to drop the charges while the three military members upheld them. In August the Supreme Court ruled that Salazar's statement did not constitute sedition, and the military court of appeals dismissed charges against him. However, on December 30 the Third Chamber of the Supreme Court authorized the military prosecutor o file new charges. In November former Navy Captain Humberto Palamara was sentenced by a naval court to 6 years' imprisonment for disobedience. He wrote a book, "Ethics and the Intelligence Services," that the court had ordered confiscated in 1993. He appealed the sentence and remains free on bail. The Supreme Court was at the center of another controversy over press freedom. The Communist Party newspaper El Siglo printed an article in 1993 critical of the Supreme Court, and the court's prosecutor filed charges for offending the judiciary under state security laws. The editor of El Siglo and a journalist spent 15 days in jail, and then were released on bail. In January 1994, a court sentenced them to 300 days' imprisonment, but freed them on bail while they appeal. Human rights lawyers questioned whether the lower courts could issue an impartial ruling in this case. The Government revised a draft press law that had been proposed by the Aylwin Government in 1993, and resubmitted the bill in September. Like the original version, the new bill would transfer cases involving freedom of speech for nonmilitary personnel from military to civilian courts, including charges of defamation and sedition. Although Congress continues to debate the law, it remains the subject of considerable controversy with press organs arguing that it may affect freedom of expression and the protection of anonymous sources.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Citizens have the right to peaceful assembly and association. The law requires official permission to hold rallies and demonstrations on streets and public plazas. The authorities normally authorize demonstrations, but may suggest an alternative location to minimize inconvenience to the public. Prior to September 11, the anniversary of the coup, the Frei administration asked Santiago authorities not to authorize demonstrations near La Moneda presidential palace, the site where most of the fighting took place on the day of the coup and where former President Allende died. The governor of greater Santiago had promised the organizers of an anticoup demonstration that they would be able to march past the palace, and he resigned when he felt his authority to authorize such marches was not being respected.

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.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Chileans by law are free to move within and to enter and leave their country. The National Office of Returnees--established by the Congress in 1990 to facilitate the reincorporation into society of the more than 56,000 Chileans who returned from exile--closed in August. It assisted returnees and their families by providing special access to customs exemptions, health care, housing, and information on job opportunities.

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 or over, and more than 95 percent of those eligible are registered to vote. Voting is compulsory for those who register. National elections for President and Congress were held on December 11, 1993, the second since the return to democracy. President Frei won the largest majority in modern Chilean history, capturing 58 percent of the vote in a six-candidate race. The Senate includes 18 members elected in 1993 and 20 elected in 1989. Under the 1980 Constitution, various national institutions, including the President, the Supreme Court, and the Armed Forces-dominated National Security Council, appointed an additional nine Senators to 8-year terms prior to the transition to democracy. (One of the appointed Senate positions was vacant at year's end.) While the governing coalition has a majority in the Chamber of Deputies, the opposition has a working majority in the Senate due to the eight appointed Senators. The former military government wrote the 1980 Constitution and amended it slightly in 1989 after losing a referendum for President Pinochet to stay in office. It provides for a strong presidency and a legislative branch with limited powers. The President has the authority to limit spending and to set time limits for Congress to consider bills. In addition, the Constitution includes provisions designed to protect the interests of the military and the minority political opposition, currently the right. These provisions, according to their defenders (and even some critics) assured stability in the political process during the transition. The center-left coalition that has governed Chile since 1990 accepts the legitimacy of the 1980 Constitution, but has sought to amend elements characterized as "authoritarian enclaves" left over from the previous regime. These include limitations on the President's right to remove chiefs of the armed forces, an electoral system that gives the political opposition a disproprtionate representation in Congress, and the existence of nonelected "institutional senators."Women have had the right to vote in municipal elections since 1934 and in national elections since 1949, and they are active in Chilean political life at the grass roots level. Women make up a majority of the registered voters and of those who actually cast ballots, but there are few women in leadership positions. There are 9 women among the 120 deputies, 3 women among the 46 Senators, and 3 female cabinet ministers. Chile's indigenous people have the legal right to participate freely in the political process, although relatively few are politically active. While their participation has increased since the 1990 democratic transition, of the nearly one million self-described indigenous people in Chile, there is only one representative of Indian descent in the Congress. Indigenous leaders participated in drafting 1993 legislation giving them greater influence over decisions affecting their interests.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

The Social Aid Foundation of the Christian Churches hired many of the lawyers and assumed the bulk of the caseload of the Catholic Church's former Vicariate of Solidarity. The Chilean Human Rights Commission is affiliated with the International League of Human Rights and continues to gather evidence of police abuses. The Defense Committee of the Peoples' Rights (CODEPU) provides legal counsel to those accused of politically related crimes and to victims of human rights abuses. Nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) say that the Government has cooperated with their efforts to investigate accusations of continued human rights violations in Chile. Many international NGO's also continued to follow closely human rights issues in Chile. The National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation issued a report in 1991 that was a catalytic event in allowing Chilean society to come to terms with human rights abuses under the military government. The successor to the Commission, the National Corporation for Compensation and Reconciliation continues to investigate cases, and the Congress recently extended its mandate through the end of 1995 to allow it to complete investigations of the last of 3,200 individual cases of human rights abuses on which it has information. The corporation also provides more than one million dollars per month in compensation to more than 5,000 family members of human rights victims.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution guarantees equality before the law, but it does not specifically ban discrimination based on race, sex, religion, or social status. There are no laws preventing gays or lesbians from exercising freedom of speech or other rights. However, when the National Health Service advertisements on AIDS awareness suggested homosexual behavior was one of the situations that put people at risk, two local television stations refused to run the advertisements.


Legal distinctions between the sexes still exist, despite a decision in 1989 to ratify the U.N. Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and give human rights treaties precedence over local laws. A law that classified adultery as a criminal offense for women and a civil offense for men was changed in 1994. The law permits legal separation, but not divorce, so those who wish to remarry need to seek annulments. Since annulments imply that the marriage legally never existed, former wives are left with little legal recourse for financial support. A law was recently enacted that creates conjugal property as an option in a marriage but some women actually saw this as a step backward since the law on separate property (which still exists), gives women the right to half their husbands' assets but gives husbands no rights to theirs. The public is only beginning to become aware of the extent of abuses such as wife beating. The National Women's Service (SERNAM), created in 1991 to combat discrimination against women, found in a survey that 26.2 percent of women said they had been subjected to some form of physical violence by their husband or partner and another 33.5 percent reported some form of psychological violence, but only 16 percent reported such violence to the police. SERNAM is now conducting courses on the legal, medical, and psychological aspects of domestic violence for Carabineros, who are usually the first public officials to intervene in such incidents, and in January, the Carabineros created a Family Affairs Unit. The Congress recently enacted a law on intrafamily violence that provides court-ordered counseling to those involved in intrafamily violence. In the first 5 months it was in effect, nearly 1,000 cases were reported to the Carabineros family affairs unit in Santiago. In 57 of those cases, men claimed they were abused by their spouses. Carabineros also reported that the family affairs unit received more than 2,400 complaints of rape or sexual abuse the first 11 months that it was in operation. Another SERNAM study of female heads of household found that on average they earn 45 percent as much as male heads of households. Women with no schooling received a salary that was 82 percent of that of their male counterparts without schooling, while women heads of household with university training earned only 51.7 percent as much as their male contemporaries. SERNAM has a pilot program providing occupational training and child care to attempt to alleviate this form of discrimination.


The Congress enacted a law that segregates juvenile offenders from adult prisoners. Although juvenile offenders (i.e. those under 18) had long received special treatment in the courts, some of the prisoners had been incarcerated with adults. The National Minors Service (SENAME) conducted a survey that indicated sexual abuse of minors occurred but that few cases were reported. The new law on intrafamily violence was designed in part to deal with this type of problem. A United Nations Children's Fund study of 1,853 young people attempted to estimate how many children work. The study concluded that 7 percent of children between 6 and 17 years of age were in the work force. The majority of the working minors were males from single parent families who work more than 40 hours per week and did not attend school. The Congress is considering a proposed law to regulate, rather than ban, work by minors so that there would be a better chance of their attending school.

Indigenous People

The Mapuches from southern Chile comprise over 90 percent of the indigenous population, but there are small Aimara, Atacameno, Huilliche, Rapa Nui, and Kawaskhar populations in other parts of Chile. A committee composed of representatives of indigenous groups participated in drafting the 1993 law that recognized the ethnic diversity of the indigenous population and gave them a voice in decisions affecting their lands, cultures and traditions. It provides for eventual bilingual education in schools with indigenous populations, and replaced a statute which emphasized assimilation of indigenous people. However, out of the population which identifies itself as indigenous (nearly one million, according to the 1992 census), about half remain separated from the rest of society, largely because of historical, cultural, educational, and geographical factors, and in fact the ability of indigenous people to participate in decisions affecting their lands, cultures, traditions, and the allocation of natural resources i marginal at best.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Chile assimilated a major European (mainly German) migration in the last century and a major Middle Eastern (mainly Arab) migration in the early part of this century. Smaller racial and ethnic minority groups experience a degree of intolerance. The wife of a prominent Korean resident filed suit after she was banned from a local health club, and the Supreme Court ruled in her favor, assessing the maximum fine.

People with Disabilities

Congress passed a law in 1994 to promote the integration of people with disabilities into society, and the National Fund for the Handicapped (FONDIS) has a $1.5 million budget. The 1992 Census found that 288,000 citizens said they had some form of disability, but FONDIS estimates that the actual number is closer to one million. The disabled still suffer some forms of legal discrimination, for example, blind people cannot become teachers or tutors. Although the law now requires that new public buildings provide access for the disabled, the public transportation system does not make provision for wheelchair access, and even a new subway line under construction has barriers to the disabled. Reserved parking for the disabled is becoming more common.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

Workers have a right to form unions without prior authorization and to join existing unions, and about 11.5 percent of the work force is organized. A newly enacted law gives government employees' associations the same rights as trade unions, and the associations' leaders are on committees to draft the implementing regulations. Public employee associations participate in labor centrals, but they had not enjoyed the same legal protection as unions. Only the police and military are not allowed to form unions. The 1992 Labor Code permits nationwide labor centrals, and the Unified Workers Central (CUT), the largest and most representative central, legalized its status in April 1992. CUT and many other confederations and federations maintain ties to international labor organizations. Unions are independent of the Government, but union leaders are usually elected from lists based on party affiliation and they maintain ties to their parties. Reforms to the Labor Code in 1990 removed significant restrictions on the right to strike. For example, employers may no longer fire striking workers without paying severance benefits. But the law continues to require that workers vote by secret ballot in the presence of a labor inspector or notary whether to accept the company's final offer before they can go on strike. Employers must now show cause to fire workers, but "needs of the company" is a permissible cause. Union leaders claim that some employers invoke this clause to fire employees who are attempting to form unions or who are active in collective bargaining.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Although the climate for collective bargaining improved under the democratic government, most workers continue to negotiate individual contracts. Employers say this is due to the emphasis that workers put on individual performance, but union leaders say that the Labor Code prevents many sectors from organizing. The process for negotiating a formal labor contract is carefully regulated, and the Labor Code prescribes a detailed set of rules for contract negotiations. Formal negotiations are required for unions to call a strike. Nonetheless, the law permits (and the government encourages) informal union-management discussions to reach collective agreements ("convenios") outside the regulated bargaining process. Employers may include a clause in individual employment contracts that some classes of employees are not allowed to participate in collective bargaining. While this supposedly applies only to supervisory personnel, in the telephone company, for example, technical personnel also have such contracts. Temporary workers--defined in the Labor Code as agriculture, construction, port workers, and entertainers--may now form unions, but their right to collective bargaining continued to be restricted. The Labor Code provides sanctions for unfair bargaining practices that protect workers from dismissal during the bargaining process, but labor leaders claim that companies invoke the "needs of the enterprise" clause to fire workers after a union has signed a new contract, particularly when negotiations result in a prolonged strike. If a worker proves in court that he had been fired unfairly, this will raise his severance pay by 20 percent, but he will not get his job back. Since workers must wait months or years for the court to rule before collecting their severance pay, they seldom resort to this remedy. The same labor laws apply in Chile's duty free zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution and the Labor Code prohibit forced or compulsory labor, and there is no indication that it is currently practiced.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The law permits children as young as 14 years old to be employed only with permission of parents or guardians, after completing their compulsory elementary schooling, and in restricted types of labor. Those aged 15 to 18 may be employed in a larger variety of jobs and at expanded hours, but only with their parents' or guardians' permission. Labor inspectors enforce these regulations and voluntary compliance is good in the formal sector. Many children are employed in the informal economy, however, which is more difficult to regulate (see Section 5 on children). The Carabineros have procedures to counsel parents who take their children out of school and put them to work.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law sets minimum wages, 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 a few positions like caretakers are exempted. A tripartite committee comprised of government, employer, and labor representatives normally suggests a minimum wage based on projected future inflation and increases in productivity, but in 1994 the employers did not participate and the labor representatives did not accept the Government's final offer. The Congress passed the Government's proposal with little dissent, which set the minimum monthly wage at about $125 (51,125 pesos). Lower paid workers also receive a family subsidy to help raise their earnings to an acceptable level. Ministry of Labor inspectors enforce laws covering working conditions. The Government has increased resources and targeted inspections at industries that had been the worst abusers. As a result, enforcement is improving and voluntarily compliance is fairly good. Insurance mutuals have provided workmen's compensation and occupational safety training for the private sector since the 1960's, and they reported a 24 percent decline in occupational injuries over that time, although 11 percent of the work force still submitted claims. In November the Congress amended the law to allow public sector workers the same coverage, a longstanding demand of organized labor. Workers who remove themselves from situations that endanger their health and safety have their employment protected, provided they asked a workers' delegate to bring the problem to the attention of labor inspectors.

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