Piñera promulgates a law that stiffens the penalties in cases of arson attacks on vehicles with people inside

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The president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, promulgated the ‘Juan Barrios Law’ on Wednesday, which allows for tougher penalties in cases of arson attacks against vehicles in which people are inside.

The promulgation of the new law, which opens the way to the imposition of life sentences, had been approved on Tuesday by the Chilean Congress and It is named after a trucker who died after being the victim of an arson attack in the region of La Araucanía, in southern Chile, during 2020, when he was spending the night inside his truck.

“Setting fire to a truck or a vehicle that may have people inside it must have the same gravity as burning a house or an inhabited place and therefore he must have the same penalty, “said Piñera during the televised event held at the Palacio de la Moneda.

The Presidency of Chile explained in a press office that the new law modifies the Penal Code to include motorized vehicles with people inside the crimes of arson, and creates a new aggravating factor for those who commit the crime. The initiative incorporates new penalties that go up to perpetual imprisonment.

Attacks resulting in death, mutilation or serious injury include penalties ranging from 15 years to life imprisonment; while the cases in which there are injuries, the sentences will range from 10 years in prison to life.

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What is happening in southern Chile?

The new regulations were promulgated within the framework of a territorial conflict, which has to do with the historical claim of Mapuche communities in relation to the advancement of private property over their lands considered ancestral, something that has occurred since the formation of the Chilean State, in the second half of the XIX century.

From this ancient demand of the Mapuche people, which occurs in parallel in Argentine territory, have arisen minority groups claiming violent actions (fires, vandalism, shootings) on one side and the other of the Andes mountain range, although they occur more frequently on the Chilean side.

Faced with the attacks recently registered in the southern region, more precisely in the provinces of Arauco, Cautín and Malleco, President Piñera declared on October 12 —Day of Respect for the Cultural diversity– the constitutional state of exception, which authorizes the actions of the Armed Forces in the control of internal security, only in conflict zones.

This measure was extended for the fourth time last week, although the acts of violence, far from diminishing, have increased.

Human rights organizations, part of the opposition and the indigenous communities themselves have expressed their rejection of these militarization policies, since they consider that, in addition to stigmatizing the entire Mapuche population, they increase conflict and remove the possibilities of a peaceful solution, sustainable and fair for indigenous communities.

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