Hundreds of Carabineros (national police), armed with with water cannons and tear gas bombs, attacked the offices of the Communist Party of Chile (CPC) in Santiago Nov. 28.
About 40 members of the CPC, including its general secretary, Gladys Marin, were arrested in the raid. Five of the arrested Communists are candidates in the parliamentary elections Dec. 16.
As news of the raid reached the different parts of this South American country, hundreds took to the streets in various cities to protest the raid.
In Valparaiso, a peaceful protest march was attacked by police using water cannons and tear gas, resulting in a number of Communists and their supporters being injured and arrested.
Guillermo Tellier, member of the CPC Central Committee, told the Chilean newspaper, La Tercera, that the police entered without announcing themselves, broke down a door, and “they beat us inside, then they arrested us.” Twenty people were injured in the raid and one suffered a heart attack.
Marin said the police “were dressed as though going to war.”
Tellier said that lawyers for the Communist Party were turned away from the detention center when they tried to speak with those detained. The arrested were permitted access to their lawyers after the attorneys complained to the Ministry of the Interior.
Both the Interior Ministry and the new Carabineros commander, Gen. Alberto Cienfuegos, said they were unaware that the CPC headquarters were going to be raided. Cienfuegos had taken over the post of Carabinero commander less than 24 hours before the raid. Cienfuegos’ appointment to Carabinero commander came in a shake-up which put half of the 30 most senior Carabinero generals into retirement.
After Cienfuegos went to the Carabinero police station where the Communists were being detained, he said that he would order an investigation and promised to take “severe measures” if necessary. Some sources have suggested that the raid was meant to embarrass Cienfuegos and ordered by one of the retiring police generals. The Carabinero colonel in charge of the barracks that initiated the raid has been removed from his command while the incident is investigated.
Lawyers for the Communists have filed criminal charges against the Carabineros involved in the raid. Computers and files with information needed by CPC parliamentary candidates were damaged in the raid, according to Graciela Alvarez, a lawyer for the CPC.
The official reason for the raid was to return the property to its “rightful owners.”
Marin called the police action a theft and stated that it happened “because here in Chile, there is no democracy …” She said that fascist elements operate “in all the institutions, within the courts, in the Armed Forces, in the Carabineros …”
Marin said that the house was acquired in 1975, during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, “while [the CPC was] underground, when they had stolen everything from us and the dictator had closed the parties and the unions.”
She said that the fight for the Party building was also a struggle “for the rights of the people, the workers, the common folk, the left, and the left-out.”
Marin said that the CPC won a victory when the government was forced to “loan” the CPC a building from which it could run its parliamentary campaign.
The Communist Party USA issued a statement calling for a full investigation.
“We stand together with our comrades in the Communist Party of Chile and the Young Communist League (JJCC),” the CPUSA said, “and with the Chilean people, as we always have against U.S. intervention, dictatorship, and the attack on democratic rights.”
Send protests to: Jose Miguel Inzulza, Palacio de la Moneda, Santiago, Chile.