Former Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Marcela Ríos, after Congress dismissed the constitutional charges against her CHILE CONGRESS
The constitutional lawsuit against Marcela Ríos, Gabriel Boric’s former justice minister, failed in Congress this Wednesday. The Bank of Chile Vamos – a coalition grouping the right and the centre-right – promoted the surveillance tool against Ríos for his alleged political and legal responsibility in the controversial pardons President Boric decreed for those found guilty of social outburst crimes 2019 and condemned the benefits prisons for Mapuche inmates in the so-called southern macro-zone of Chile. The initiative was rejected with 82 votes against, 49 votes in favor and three abstentions. This is the third constitutional charge the opposition has leveled against a current or former cabinet minister of the left-wing president who has been in office for less than a year. All were fired in Congress.
“Today justice has been done. We have not violated the law or the constitution during my tenure as minister,” said Ríos, who resigned the first week of January and assumed the political costs of the president’s pardoning of 13 convicts. The measure has sparked riots because of the criminal records of some of those pardoned, because of the arguments put forward by the government, and because of the lack of scope of the process. Boric himself stated that Ríos’ departure was due to “disorder occurring” at the execution. Ríos, a member of Convergencia Social, the same party as the President, was supported throughout the day by her coalition partners and by Ana Lya Uriarte, Minister of the General Secretariat of the Presidency, and Antonia Orellana, Minister for Women and Gender Equality.
The pardons were a campaign promise by Boric, but they have been heavily criticized for using them when the country is experiencing a public safety crisis and perceptions of fear of crime are at their highest in two decades. Also, on December 30, the day the names of those pardoned were announced, the President assured: “These are young people who are not criminals.” Then the lengthy story of some of them was made public and government spokeswoman Camila Vallejo asserted that if the president had had all the elements in view, “the situation would have been different.” The case marked a complex start to the year in La Moneda.
The filters of the pardoned are applied in the first instance in the Ministry of Justice, then under the direction of Ríos. Asked this Wednesday whether she had the files of those pardoned, the political scientist replied that the pardon decrees were public and “all were issued in accordance with the law and the constitution”.
In addition to the 12 people convicted of crimes committed in the revolts, Boric pardoned Jorge Mateluna, a former member of the Patriotic Front Manuel Rodríguez (FPMR), who had been sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2013 for attacking a bank in Santander. To explain his decision , the President claimed that “irregularities and an unjustified assessment of evidence have occurred in the trial of Jorge Mateluna … I am fully convinced of Jorge’s innocence and that is why we have carried out this pardon.” The Supreme Court responded with a letter recalling that the Constitution provides that “neither the President of the Republic nor the Congress can exercise judicial functions.”
The constitutional impeachment process against the former justice minister failed, among other things, due to votes against the far-right Republican Party. One of his representatives, Benjamín Moreno, justified his bloc’s decision by saying that “the constitutional charges against ex-Minister Ríos are unfair, which does not revoke pardons and also does not mean that the terrorists of La Araucanía are paying as they should be paying. However, some Chilean Vamos politicians believe it was an “act of revenge” for not supporting last week’s allegations against Giorgio Jackson, the head of social development.
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